Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A More Perfect Union

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Some claim that the U.S. Constitution is a grant of power to govern directly from the people to the national government. They claim that the phrase “we the people” reveals this intent in the framers. There are many reasons this is wrong, including the historical development behind the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Declaration of Independence and its proclamation that the states are of right independent entities. There is also the process by which the Constitution was ratified. It was ratified at state conventions or by state legislatures. It was not ratified by popular vote of all people in the nation.

There is an additional reason found in the very words of the preamble for understanding the Constitution as providing for an entity which serves the free and independent states. The reason is in the word “Union.” A reader must ask, “a union of what?” Is it possible that the preamble means a union of individuals? That idea is quite bizarre. The problem which brought the delegates from various states to a convention was the need for the states to work more closely together, a situation that the Articles of Confederation was powerless to accomplish. So it is in the words of the preamble that the “States” are “United,” not individuals.

Many will reply that in the union of the States there was a giving up their independent authority to the federal government. Is that what “union” means? When I married my wife and became united to her in the covenant of marriage, did I relinquish my identity? Did she? Certainly, we have to work together for each other’s good. Sometimes one of us will give up his or her rights for the good of the other. We do so for the other individual, not because we are a collective whole. A union only exists for the joining of distinct beings in a mutually beneficial relationship.

The states have for many years ignored their role in forming “a more perfect Union.” The federal government for decades has usurped the authority of the states and actually worked against this union for the goal of merging all things into it. This is not a union. The states in the years to come must engage together and work together to reestablish this more perfect Union.

From the Hon. Ed Emery: Wise Words

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Benjamin Franklin

New TSA airport security rules have been frequently in the news. Perspectives vary from demands for increased security to concerns over invasion of privacy and assaults on modesty. The Christmas travel season plus my own recent venture to Washington DC make it timely to comment on the appropriateness and effectiveness of this latest government intrusion. I was also asked by a close friend to offer some comments. First, let me say that in my trip to DC, I didn’t set off any metal detectors so I was not forced to endure a pat-down or digital disrobing. Nevertheless, that this preposterous policy would be conceived in America, much less tolerated by Americans is a testimony to several cultural phenomena:

One-size-fits-all security – As Americans abandon independence and personal accountability, travelers have fallen to depending on for protection. Government might seem the appropriate institution except that fundamental principles of security are being ignored. Name a successful law enforcement agency or security company that does not profile for likely suspects. They rely on highly trained profiling experts to aid in protecting the innocent and apprehending the guilty. It works! I guarantee you that if airlines were in charge of security instead of our infamous Homeland Security Dept., profiling would be vital, not criminal. No intelligent person would choose random selection as the answer to airport security – only the federal government. Rejecting the truth makes one prey for foolishness.

Motivated by fear over reason – “Don’t panic” is the notable advice in every emergency. Panic may motivate lots of activity but seldom effective resolution. Panic makes us open to unreasonable and even harmful ideas that reason would reject. What thoughtful person really expects an airline to be hijacked with a 1 ½ inch fingernail file? A delegated function of our government is to make and enforce rules for the common good. A measure of its power over its citizens is the amount of absurd and futile rules we will endure. Panic empowers government, not people.

Panacea of a harmless society – Americans have been brainwashed that with enough power, government can produce a harmless environment. If that were true, there would be no crime or injury in China, Iran, or Illinois. Justice anticipates offense and provides for a response. For a free people to remain free, that society must accept that offenses will come and be prepared with just responses that range from fines to jail to the electric chair to stealth bombers.

Neglect of our national identity – Liberty will always be opposed by those who demand submission. America is the central planner’s worst nightmare because we prove daily that influence, prosperity, success, and fulfillment come from individual freedom, not central government control. Our commitment to personal freedom is both substance and proof of American Exceptionalism. America is anathema to elitists and dictators. But the abandonment of our rich national identity hinders our response to terrorist acts because we fail to treat acts that target citizens (instead of armies) as national offenses. President Reagan’s targeted bombing of Libya is a case in point of how to deal with terrorists. It has changed world politics and protected Americans for decades.

Part of American exceptionalism is that we have the government we chose (some would say we deserve). Walt Kelly, cartoonist, in his “Pogo” comic strip coined the phrase “we have met the enemy and he is us.” If we don’t like the path our government is choosing, we can change it, and it doesn’t take a revolution – it takes an election. The 2010 election proves we can still take charge, and it was another testimony to American exceptionalism. But is America falling victim to a thousand cuts, and are new TSA regulations one of those cuts? I think so. The question is not so much what will I do the next time I fly, but what will I do in 2012 when I vote.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A More Perfect Union

Peter Leithart writes in his Intro to The Four: Survey of the Gospels: "To get it right, we need to distinguish between person and nature, know the difference between substance and subsistence, know that there can be union without mixture and distinction without seperation, and believe the Word is en-hypostatically related to an anhypostatice human nature." What a great beginning.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Socialism is Theft

It is time to change the word “socialist” to “thief.” In recent days, after President Obama came forward with an agreement in principle to extend the so called “Bush Tax Cuts,” there has been no end to the harangue about the rich being “benefitted” at the expense of the poor. Have we really fallen so far as a nation that anyone would accept this characterization? Have we really fallen so far that any would accept the concept that money by its very nature is the government’s to be distributed at its sole discretion? Money belongs to people, not to governments.

The Declaration of Independence sets forth the core principles of this nation. In part, it states as follows:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
In today’s world, the words “pursuit of happiness” have lost their meaning. For John Locke, the word was “property.” In the words of the Virginia Declaration of Rights adopted in 1776, the entire phrase was “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” For Witherspoon, the words “pursuit of happiness” meant the “pursuit of public righteousness.” The founders understood that a people could not be truly free unless they were secure in their property. It is for this reason that the various taxes imposed by King George became the pivotal point around which the war for independence began. “No King but King Jesus” was spoken on the very same lips as the phrase “No taxation without representation.”

We now have a significant portion of our society that implicitly thinks that all property, including money, belongs to the federal government. Why else could anyone possibly imagine that a tax cut is a “benefit” to anyone? If it is the people’s money, a tax cut is simply reducing a confiscation of that property.

Let’s be clear: Socialism is not an economic theory. Socialism is theft. Capitalism is inherent in creation. Before the establishment of governmental structures, what economic structure was there? There was bartering. Bartering is capitalism. A free exchange of goods and services for the mutual benefit is the way that man naturally transacts with his fellow man. When nations deal, how do they deal? Even in the most socialistic of times, socialist nations barter as capitalists. China buys American debt for its own self interest. It does not do so for the sake of other nations. Unfettered capitalism is guaranteed in our founding documents in the protection of our property. Unfettered capitalism is the best and most effective way for assuring liberty and providing for economic growth.

Socialism is a top down imposition of governmental power for the taking of money from some for distribution to others. It is in its most basic identity theft. Frederic Bastiat, in his treatise “The Law” called it “legal plunder.” “Legal plunder” distorts the sensitivities of the public so that they are unable to discern justice any more. And if a culture is unable to discern justice, it is unlikely that it is able to discern mercy. Calling tax cuts “benefits” to the rich is the final conclusion to the corruption or our capability to discern justice and mercy.

Therefore, I propose that conservatives adopt the terminology that any tax over 10 percent of a person’s income be called theft. Scripture makes clear that taxation above 10 percent makes a people slaves. We, as a nation, need to radically rethink and talk our culture back to the way it was at its founding. We need to reclaim our liberty. Our constitutional system of government was designed for a moral and religious people according to John Adams. We must realign our thinking so that we can once again rightly discern justice and mercy. Words have meaning. Let us label confiscation of our property at the hands of the federal tyrant as what it is, theft.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Repeal Amendment Yes, Con Con No

On November 29, Patrick Tuohey wrote in support of “The Repeal Amendment” in the Missouri Record. http://missourirecord.com/news/index.asp?article=10204. I applaud and support Patrick’s proposal of the repeal amendment. While Patrick distinguishes the repeal amendment from nullification, in actuality, the repeal amendment would explicitly insert the concept of nullification within the very terms of the U.S. Constitution itself. As quoted by Patrick, the repeal amendment would state as follows:
Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.
While I believe the right of nullification inherently resides within the sovereignty of the states, Patrick would make that right explicit within the Constitution. This would significantly clarify the situation.

There is one aspect of Patrick’s proposal that does give me great pause, however. The significant question that remains unanswered is how the amendment should be accomplished. The U.S. Constitution provides for two ways of amending it. As Patrick points out, the states may either ratify an amendment proposed by Congress or call for a constitutional convention. Many in the past have proposed that the states should call a Constitutional Convention (or a “Con Con”). Patrick implicitly supports the effort of calling for a Con Con in that he cites state action in this regard. While there is great potential benefit in adopting the repeal amendment, I believe there is greater potential risk in calling a Con Con.

Let us look at what we have. Patrick rightly points out that our Constitution is a marvelous document. The flaw in our culture today is not in the document itself but in the people who are the caretakers of the powers delegated by the document. The simplest of solutions is to find people who will be faithful to the trust that they have been given.

The real risk of a Con Con is that the Convention would be free to propose amendments to the Constitution. Presumably the Convention could propose as many changes as it wanted to the Constitution, including a complete rewrite of the Constitution itself. After all, such is the origin of our original Constitution, proposed in a convention called to amend the Articles of Confederation.

With this possibility at hand, I am forced to ask the question, would I prefer to live under a document written by the statesmen of the past or the politicians of today. Let us compare the two. Our founders, for the most part were classically trained men who read Cicero, Locke, and Blackstone. According to Patrick Henry, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!” This means that they believed in certain absolutes, among these was the certainty of the law. According to Sir William Blackstone, the great legal commentator of the time, “This law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other-It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this: and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.” Blackstone went on to recognize the source of all law as the Bible. “This has given manifold occasion for the benign interposition of divine providence; which, in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason, has been pleased, at sundry times and in diverse manners, to discover and enforce its laws by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures.” What is significant is that our founders understood that what God gives man cannot take away. They were driven by a vision of liberty for all.

Our present generation of politicians does not understand even these most basic of concepts. Consider now that our culture's most recent fad principle is “Hope and Change.” Our leaders for the past two years have been guided by the proposition of spreading the wealth around, i.e. legislated theft. Have our leaders ever read Blackstone? Do they understand the moral underpinnings of liberty as John Adams did, Adams who said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” To post modern culture truth is relative. Political correctness is the overriding principle today. I would not chance the rewrite of our great national charter to times such as these.

However, there is a way to achieve the adoption of the repeal amendment with greatly reduced risk to our national charter: have Congress propose it. If as Patrick states, one can hope that it will gain traction with liberals as well as conservatives, it should be proposed in Congress. If Congress proposes the amendment, the states can ratify that one amendment and no others. One might also suggest an ancillary amendment to the constitution and that is to permit the states to propose specific amendments for consideration by the other states and the Congress. Such a dialogue among the states would be healthy.