from the Congress Action newsletter
by: Kim Weissman
July 3, 2005
Click here for Part 1
Since long before our nation’s birth, political philosophers debated the proper relationship between the power of government and individual liberty. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights were designed to resolve that question, for this nation, in favor of individual liberty, by strictly limiting the power of our government.
In 1994, modern liberalism controlled the Presidency and the Congress, and dominated the media that dispensed carefully tailored “news” to the public. Alternate information sources blossomed to balance the ideological drumbeat of the traditional media, and in 1994 the republicans, advocates of individual liberty and limited government, won the majority of Congress for the first time in forty years.
It’s now been a decade with the party that professed fidelity to the Constitution – as it was written and ratified – in control of Congress, coinciding with the second term of a republican president, and we see the results of what we were told would be an attempt to restore limited government and reclaim individual liberty. Unfortunately, when it comes to spending taxpayer money on matters that the federal government has no constitutional authority to pursue, and intruding where it has no constitutional authority to be, republicans and democrats have been virtually indistinguishable. People eventually get the type of government they want, and we seem perfectly content to see our government continue to expand, while our liberty gives ground.
We used to be a nation that encouraged people to strive to achieve their highest aspirations; we are now a nation that panders to people’s lowest venal instincts. Whenever something happens that we don’t like, it must be some evil conspiracy, or someone else’s fault, never our own. When the candidate we oppose wins an election, it’s not because more people voted for him; no, the election was stolen. When gasoline prices rise, it’s not because we allow activists to block new oil refineries or nuclear power plants, and ban oil drilling in our own country; no, it’s because oil companies are gouging us. When bankruptcy law is reformed, we complain that we may lose our “right” to avoid actually paying for what we buy; it’s not our fault we accepted all those credit card offers we got in the mail and spent other people’s money. When we see someone wealthier than we are, it couldn’t possibly be that they are smarter, more industrious, more ambitious, or more frugal than we are; no, they’re rich because they cheated us.
Lies triumph over truth, hatred triumphs over citizenship, personal greed triumphs over individual responsibility, and opportunism triumphs over character. Some wondered what it would take to force us to rise above our self-interest at the expense of the national good, but if three thousand innocents massacred by fanatics in our largest city on a bright September morning was not enough to put aside petty partisanship and defend our country and our freedom; if watching the court-ordered death of a helpless woman on national television was not enough to reclaim control over our government, then nothing will be.
We acquiesce in a government that takes from one group to buy the loyalty of another group; and as long as the group taken from is smaller than the group that gets the benefits, everything works out just fine for those who spread the wealth – our politicians. For years we have allowed the class of taxpayers to grow ever smaller; our politicians boast about how many people are removed from the taxpayer rolls, that’s fewer people to object when government spends our money. Politicians get elected by telling people what they will cause government to do for them, pledging to give this group or that group some benefit or entitlement at the expense of some other group that people have been indoctrinated to despise. We’ll force your employer to pay you more money; after all, we’re just taking it from an evil corporation. We’ll give you higher welfare or retirement goodies; after all, we’re just taking it from the evil rich. If you’re a member of a “protected” group, we’ll make sure you get special preference for a job or admission to a college; after all, we’re just taking that job or that education from some probably-privileged white male. You’re entitled.
This nation was built by immigrants who came here to seek what became known as “the American dream” and who wanted to assimilate to become Americans. But for years the floods of immigrants have included many who hold such contempt for this country that they refuse to even learn our language, many of whom consider assimilation to be akin to genocide. But rather than defend our heritage we open the door to those who despise us (and in this age, probably including terrorists). Republican, Democrat, there’s little difference; political correctness trumps defense of our heritage and culture, and the majority of Americans who think assimilation should be a prerequisite for citizenship are ignored. Woodrow Wilson said, “You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups.” Theodore Roosevelt said, “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americans. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.”
Forget such idealism – today we even mandate that election ballots be printed in foreign languages so that people who don’t speak English, who thus have little grasp of the debates over the important political issues of the day (except as filtered by agenda-driven activists), can vote in our elections. We are even prevented from trying to determine if the people who vote in our elections are citizens! In some states our healthcare, education, and social service systems are strained to collapse by people who aren’t even in this country legally, yet we are instructed by our courts that we must pander to those who blithely break our laws.
People also eventually get the type of society they want, and we have created a society in which fantasy and reality are interchangeable. After all, aren’t people entitled to believe whatever they please? As we lose historical perspective, an insidious ignorance increasingly drives public policy. The economic system that has created the highest standard of living in history is portrayed as evil; while backward cultures, where rampant disease and early death are the norm, are celebrated as models for us to emulate. With smug superiority the economically and historically illiterate demand that we institute socialism here, even though socialism always results in tyranny and desolation; because the theory of socialism sounds so nice, never mind the reality.
Human-caused global warming has been refuted, yet people still demand we “do something” to “save the earth”. Societies that disarm the law-abiding always see a rise in violence from emboldened criminals, yet we disarm the law-abiding because the elites who rule our dependency culture simply will not tolerate self-reliance. People who pretend devotion to human rights are so blinded by hatred that they condemn the liberation of 50 million people from barbarity as a terrible mistake; and the leader of the nation that has done more over the last century to spread freedom around the world is denounced as worse than a murderous dictator.
Many still consider the United Nations to be the only source of international legitimacy, despite its corruption and genocides that occur under its watch; and demand we subordinate our nation, with its political system that, for all its faults, is still the most responsive to the will of the People, to unaccountable bureaucrats and tyrants. Our freedom is under assault from all sides. If the Constitution does not say something that we wish it did, well then…it does! If the Constitution says something that we don’t like, well then…just ignore it! Our Bill of Rights, designed to defend our most precious liberties against government encroachment, has become a roll call of liberties lost. At the same time, as though in a perverse crusade to undermine the stability of our society, the rights of the worst reprobates of society are expanded.
In 1801, Scottish jurist and historian Alexander Fraser Tytler observed,
If we accept this analysis, it would be difficult to argue that we are not in the last stages of that cycle. Our Constitution begins “We, the People”, because it was a bedrock belief of our Founders that in this new nation, the People would be in charge. But today, governments at all levels intrude into virtually every aspect of our lives. Are we still citizens, or are we now subjects? It seems that we have struck our bargain: “Just take care of us, don’t bother us with thorny details like individual responsibility and self-government based on informed consent; and in exchange we will cede our liberty to our government masters.” Our rulers will maintain the illusion that we are still a self-governing republic for some time yet, and we will continue trying to convince ourselves that we are still in charge of our own destiny. But if we are honest, as we review our constantly shrinking rights, we will know that is just a bitter farce. Soon enough, both rulers and ruled will drop the illusion.
The Founders of our nation, who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to secure our liberty, have moved on. If they could see our land today they would weep at our failures. But who cares? They were all just a bunch of racist white male religious nuts with guns, anyway – isn’t that what revisionist history books teach our young? Those great men are no longer relevant. Their great experiment nears its end; their great treatises extolling the virtues of liberty, self government, and the Rights of Man, are even now relegated to moldering on dusty library shelves, unread and unappreciated. For how much longer will our posterity even be taught that the fundamental structure of our nation was the belief that “governments are instituted…deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”? But in our complacency and our apathy, we have waived our consent and given away our ability to govern ourselves.
In 1804, Thomas Jefferson expressed a bright hope for the future of the nation: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth.” The sad reality is that man is not governed by reason or truth, but by vainglorious arrogance and an ambition for power over his fellow man. Benjamin Franklin warned that “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Few politicians today dare speak of “virtue”, and those who do are vilified for violating some mythical “wall of separation” between church and state. Franklin also wrote, “There is a natural inclination in mankind to kingly Government.” How prescient he was!
The questions remain: Is our freedom salvageable? Can this nation return to the self-governing constitutional republic that it was designed to be? The outcome of the contest between government tyranny and individual liberty is by no means clear.
Opposition to popular constitutionalism (the People as the ultimate authority) is deeply rooted in our judicial system, our education system, our media, and our cultural institutions; loathing of the American tradition is pervasive, even in a sizeable portion of our own population, and so many of us value our liberty far too lightly. If the trends of the past decades continue, the prospects do not look good. Perhaps there is still time, but time grows short. On this Independence Day perhaps we will recall what is at stake and rededicate ourselves to the task ahead. It will be difficult, but Thomas Paine wrote, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” Reclaiming individual liberty for America will require the commitment of a new generation of visionaries in the mold of Jefferson and Madison; but if they fail, we should tremble at the specter of what comes next.
The above article is
the property (copyright) of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his
Our Decaying Society
7 jul 2005