from the Congress Action newsletter
by: Kim Weissman
June 26, 2005
At the end of the 18th century there flowered in America a remarkable new social order that altered centuries of conventional wisdom about how societies should be governed. Thomas Jefferson said it best in the very last letter that he wrote. Jefferson had been invited to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of American Independence, but he declined due to poor health. He died ten days later on July 4, 1826, on the same day as his long-time friend and sometime political opponent throughout “the age of revolutions and constitutions”, John Adams, and precisely 50 years after the signing of his momentous Declaration of Independence, which forever redefined the Rights of Man.
In his last letter Jefferson wrote,
Next week marks the 229th “return of this day”; let us survey what remains of our “undiminished devotion” to what our Founders bequeathed to us.
The nation created in that age has traveled long down the path illuminated for it by that truly greatest generation of Americans. But somewhere along the way that light dimmed, and the nation seems to have lost its way. Raucously partisan political divisions, what the Founders called “factions”, have been with us since the beginning; in a nation built on free self-expression and protective of individual liberty, that was to be expected. Rivalry among the many different ideas of the good of society has been a healthy staple of our public life. But over the last half century the power of the limited government we created to represent us and to preserve our freedom has grown, while our individual liberties withered. From whatever ideological perspective we view the nation today, if we step back from the daily give and take of everyday politics and look around us, we cannot help but feel that somehow, something has gone tragically wrong.
One of our most basic rights, our right to speak freely, to criticize our government, or to voice our opinions, has been curtailed, especially if those opinions digress from conventional “liberal” dogma. Just ask any conservative speaker who has been invited to speak on a college campus; or a conservative student who dared to disagree with a left-wing professor. Tom DeLay, a member of congress, was accused of inciting violence against judges for seeking the very same thing that Thomas Jefferson sought many times during his political life – the accountability of judges to the People of the nation.
If, in the course of a discussion about our government, one were to quote our Declaration of Independence, “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government”; or quote Jefferson, “I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing”; or even be a bit too vociferous in criticizing members of our government, they can be accused of inciting to overthrow the government. After the attack against the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, a radio talk show host was publicly accused of inciting the attack by no less than the President of the United States (who later denied making the accusation). When the President of the United States makes such an accusation, with all the power of the government behind him, it serves as a none-too-veiled threat to ordinary citizens that criticism of the government will not be tolerated. We find similar intolerance from some conservatives, although rarely from high elected officials.
When our schools are forced to spend billions teaching in dozens of foreign languages; when even election ballots for governing our nation are printed in the languages of other nations; even the most “progressive” citizens, if they care about America continuing as the United States and not becoming an arena of balkanized chaos, must realize that something is very wrong.
We are at war against a fanatical enemy obsessed with destroying our civilization, and when we see some of our fellow citizens and even some of our elected representatives give aid and comfort to that enemy; when we see some of our fellow citizens allowing their partisan agenda to take precedence over winning the war, and even manifest a desire to see America fail; when we see our own government consumed with self-doubt and condemn our own forces because we may have offended our enemy’s screaming mobs, we know that something is very wrong.
When we are reluctant to express our heartfelt beliefs about the great political issues of our day or fear to criticize the functionaries of our government; when we are inhibited from exercising even our most fundamental human rights – our freedom to speak our minds openly, our right to peaceably assemble and criticize our government, our right to publicly comment upon candidates for our public offices, our right to freely exercise our religion in public, even our age-old right to defend ourselves against criminal depredation – we know that something has gone very wrong in our nation.
We have arrived at a point in the life of our nation when we no longer have the ability to govern ourselves, or even to live our own lives by our own lights, as our Founders intended. And as time passes, fewer and fewer of us seem to care, or even know, what has been lost. How did we arrive at this place?
We didn’t object when judges took from the People the right to decide the meaning of our Constitution, and began “discovering” rights that suited them and ignoring rights that didn’t fit their social outlook. Newt Gingrich calls it “a proto-dictatorship of the elite pretending to still function as a Supreme Court.” Judges limit our ability to defend society by punishing criminals for transgressions against society; but at the same time allow the slaughter of unborn innocents. Can a society retain its soul when it condones the deaths of tens of millions of unborn babies? When we watch the court-ordered death by dehydration of a helpless, innocent woman on national television? “The courts say its legal”, we tell ourselves – as though that is all we need to know.
History’s tyrants usually commit their atrocities under the duly enacted laws of their countries, upheld by their courts. As we should know by now, acting according to law alone does not make everything acceptable. There must be a distinction between “law” and “justice”, which requires that our laws and courts be guided by a morality higher than sheer power. But in our country neither the People nor our elected representatives really govern any longer, because judges have the final say, dictating how we must live our lives. We came to accept that our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, which established our structure of limited government and were designed to defend our fundamental rights, don’t really mean what they plainly say, because they are “living” and “evolving” to mean whatever judges, who are among the very people those documents were intended to restrain, say they mean.
We are expected to believe that the Founders of our nation fought a revolution to throw off the bonds of an unelected and unaccountable king and unrepresentative parliament, then voluntarily bound our new nation to rule by unelected and unaccountable judges. By nullifying laws enacted by the People, imposing rules never enacted by the People, even rewriting our fundamental compact, our Constitution, the judiciary has contravened the very essence of liberty: that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The Supreme Court invented the doctrine of judicial infallibility, because its decisions cannot be challenged – short of amending the Constitution every time the Court goes astray, and they can rule far faster than we can amend.
Thomas Jefferson warned us that allowing the judiciary unbridled control over the Constitution “would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy” – the tyranny of a ruling class – which is now becoming reality. Benjamin Franklin, the wise elder statesman of the Revolution, warned that, “There is a natural inclination in mankind to kingly government.” We now see how prescient he was.
We didn’t object as our Bill of Rights was nullified. Private property rights, so fundamental to individual liberty, have been severely eroded in the name of environmentalism. The communal ownership of property in the Soviet Union had proven the Tragedy of the Commons (when everyone owns something, as private property was held by the State for ‘the people’, then no one owns it, and no one has any incentive to conserve it), and resulted in the worst environmental degradation on the planet. Yet environmentalists continue to expand government control of the use of private property, and thanks to the Supreme Court, government has the power to simply take private property whenever they want, if they think someone else will pay more taxes. Environmental laws even put land owners in jail for using their own land in a way that harms no one, with no criminal intent, and we don’t object.
The ancient right people have always had to defend themselves is gradually taken away, and we are made dependent on the State even for our own physical protection. Bowing to “progressive” ideas, judges release criminal predators into our midst, and when they continue to maim and kill, it’s the people who try to defend their lives and their families who are prosecuted. And we don’t object.
We didn’t object when our leaders subordinated our national sovereignty to foreign organizations unaccountable to the People of this country, like the United Nations and the International Court of Justice at The Hague. We don’t object as even now our leaders seek to diminish the rights of any American who offends a foreign government or the United Nations, by replacing our Bill of Rights with the rules of the International Criminal Court. We didn’t object when judges began to rely on foreign courts to define our Constitution. We are the first People in history to voluntarily surrender our liberty, and our ability to govern ourselves, to foreign authorities.
We didn’t object when our media stopped being a source of information and became an engine to advance a partisan agenda. Believing we were too self-absorbed to think for ourselves, they put their hatred of a particular president above the truth, even above winning a war. And we weren’t outraged. Our rulers passed laws called campaign finance reform, restricting our right to peaceably assemble and speak our minds as a free, self-governing People. They even admitted it was needed in order to control their own corruption, but like sheep we meekly surrendered our rights rather than turn them out of office for their admitted moral weakness. Our First Amendment plainly says, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech”, yet the Supreme Court ruled that these profoundly improper laws are constitutional. And we didn’t object.
Voting by people who have no understanding about either “the true doctrines of liberty, as exemplified in our political system” (Madison’s justification of publicly funded education), or about the facts that drive current policy, and have no interest in educating themselves about either, is praised as a great show of democracy. People who deem themselves smart enough to govern themselves don’t believe they need to be able to think for themselves; and thanks to what now passes for education, have lost the ability to do so. What did that editorial in the newspaper say, or what did some late-night comedian say, about this or that public policy? That’s what I think! Ignorance is the order of the day – and proud of it!
Since our governing class disdains moral values and rules whichever way the winds (i.e.: the polls) blow, it was inevitable that the media would start manipulating the polls and carefully tailoring the “news” to produce whatever outcome suits their agenda. And sure enough, dubious polls told us that most people actually wanted the government to starve an innocent woman to death, actually wants the government to tell us how it would permit us to save for our own retirement. With a steady drumbeat of bad news from Iraq, while ignoring all the good, the media is convincing people that we should abandon that effort and hand victory to our enemies. Dubious poll “findings” are then declared by the media and politicians to be the will of the public. And since we have elevated moral relativism to a near religion and are no longer guided by right and wrong, we find ourselves drifting with the same prevailing winds, thinking whatever our neighbors think, which is whatever the polls, the media, and our politicians tell us to think.
The above article is
the property (copyright) of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his
Our Decaying Society
27 jun 2005