So This Is The True Face Of Progressives?

WWII Vets at the Memorial
WWII Vets at the Memorial

Can someone explain this to me? WWII Veterans, our Greatest Generation, were refused entry into Their Memorial. Mind you, the government has shut down non- essential services. Yet this is a an open park, and Security was hired to Keep them OUT.  One reported that they called in and were told they would be arrested if they entered the park.

Understand, this is an Open Park. Which means that an order was put in to specifically close it down. I read that Judicial Watch filed a FOIA to find out specifically what is going on, and who ordered it. I tweeted about that earlier.

People, this is what the true face of the New America is: it’s not about universal healthcare, free school lunches, advertising to mexico on how to file for Food Stamps…it’s about American Exceptionalism: The Greatest Generation were it and The current Administration hates that. I truly believe that. When Obama said he was going to fundamentally change America, this is what he meant. I have to go back to work, to pay for all these services, but I leave you with this:

The question you have to ask yourself is this: what was so wrong with America that we need to change out Foundational core?

Chew on that, comment, but most important; Email, tweet, fax, call your senator, your representative. if they are for funding the government, but defunding Obamacare, tell them to Hold The Line, Stand Firm and do not Waver. Simple as that. If they are Democrat, tell them to change their vote or they will be gone in the next election.

Quit being an Observer in your government, and be a participant.

$15/hr to flip burgers!?

The following article is written by our guest writer, Travis Augustine, a fellow member of the Conservative Union. If you enjoy his article, let us know! You can also read more of  his work at his blog, http://w9hdg.dyndns.org/

 

 

So let me get this straight.  You work at a fast food restaurant.  You have no education beyond maybe high school, you have no marketable skills, no drive or ambition, and you have the nerve to walk out on your job because you want $15 an hour…to flip burgers…and ask “do you want fries with that?”

I’m sure plenty of you are screaming at your computer monitors already saying “I have a degree and I work at McDonalds because its the only job I can find.”  Yup, you have a degree.  Good for you.  Guess what, you majored in the wrong field.  A masters degree in underwater basket weaving is not going to land you a career, no matter what your college recruiter or advisor (who just wanted to make money, by the way) told you.  You should have gotten a degree in a field that was going to grow.

Five years ago, I was making about $20/hr in a manufacturing job, my wife at a different factory was around $14/hr.  We lost our jobs at the beginning of the recession.  I found a job starting at $10/hr and I worked my way over the course of two and a half years to about $13 an hour.  What was I doing?  I was installing cable TV, internet, and phone in people’s homes.  You want more money than I was making in a very technical field.  During that time my wife returned to school and got a degree in a medical field (a field that is growing rapidly).  She now makes just under $14/hr with just over a year of experience under her belt.  Now I have returned to school and am pursuing a Bachelor of Natural Physical Science/Physics education.  This degree will allow me to teach science in any middle or high school in the state.  Another field that is always looking for people.  That’s right, we choose fields that are growing or otherwise always looking for new people.

The bottom line is we elected to better ourselves in order to get good paying, stable jobs instead of taking a job in a field that is intended for students, stay at home parents that want something to do for extra money while their kids are away from home attending class, etc.  They are not careers.  They are entry level jobs intended to teach you work ethic, money management, and responsibility.

For those of you who think that minimum wage should be $15/hr let’s talk about that shall we?  As I mentioned above, my wife makes about $14/hr after returning to school and getting the skills necessary to do her job.  Those skills gave her a degree and thousands of dollars of debt which she now has to repay.  The reason her employer pays more than minimum wage is because she does not have minimum skill, she has demonstrated by her obtaining a degree and good grades that she has drive and dedication.  In short, she demonstrated maturity and responsibility.  If minimum wage is $15/hr what would her employer have to offer people in order to not only stay, but consider going into the field?  $25/hr?  $30/hr?  That will drive health care costs up.  Remember she has people’s lives in her hands daily.  She isn’t flipping burgers and asking, do you want fries with that.  When I graduate with my bachelor’s degree I will be likely starting in the upper $30k low $40k range for my salary.  If minimum wage is $31k/yr why should I spend all that money to get the education necessary to get the job I want?  Teachers wages would have to go way up.  How are school districts going to pay that?  In the case of private schools, tuitions will have to go up, in the case of public schools, taxes.

The long and the short of it is, as wages rise, the price of goods and services will follow.  Small businesses such as Mom and Pop dinners will be driven out of business because they will not be able to handle the higher wage requirements, unemployment will rise due to employers cutting hours in order to make payroll, inflation will skyrocket due to rising prices in order to make up the lost revenue and soon that $15/hr won’t be enough and you’ll be crying for $20, $30, or more.

You want $15/hr, get off your butt, get back to school and get an education in a growing field.  McDonalds offers great tuition assistance.  Kahn Academy offers many great free classes.  Make yourself employable and you too can make $15/hr.

 

The Change From Political to Philosophical

constitution_quill_penAs we approach 2014, and the gear up for the never-ending battle of campaigns, I wanted to reflect on how the change from the simple political parties to the philosophical, the ideologies, the line in the sand.

The American Liberal, has subverted the original Liberalism of the 18th and 19th century. It is no longer on Individual Liberty, but on the Group Equality. While in Classical Liberalism, Equality was a core value, it was never intended to be what it has been twisted into today. Locke had it perfect: it was the “Equality of Authority“. As he writes, “state . . . of equality” as one “wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection . . . .”. It was intended not for all people to be equal materially, fiscally, but in Authority.

No longer seen that way.

With the ever-growing state, of the dependency on  the government for housing, food, college funds, clothing funds, we are developing a society that values fiscal equality over liberty, that wishes to reduce from those that have more, because “It’s not fair”

How do we change that mindset? How do we, as Conservative Constitutionalists show the light to others that Liberty gives birth and grows Equality, whereas Equality over Liberty, will strangle the individuality and ability to be prosperous? How can we show that being Fiscally Responsible is common sense?

Stay tuned, folks, I’ll be discussing that in the coming weeks.

My Weekly Wrap-Up

Cocky Much

 

My commentary for the week.

But first, for my friend:

Hodor, hodor? Hodor!

hodor

It has been the longest short week I have seen in a while. From the world’s second-most stupidest person (I’ll let you figure out the first) Lena Dunham and her tweets on Memorial Day, that most sacred of American days, to  a Killer Comet hurling dangerously close to us (well, 3.8 million miles, but ain’t it cool?).

Why would I care where you peed, Lena? Are your followers so imbecilic that this is the only thing that interests them? On a Memorial Day, no less? I wish I was as disrespectful and idiotic as you; perhaps I could earn a high salary. Bejeebuz, Time magazine in March had declared her as one of the best Twitter feeds to follow.  Clockwork Orange, anyone?

Get this; starting Saturday, Pentagon has ordered that Rations be cut for Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. They will lose a  hot breakfast and others to work six-plus hours…

Really? Cut my frigg’in VA Benefits if you have to, but grunts in the field, putting their life on the line? No. The richest country on Earth, and we choose that action.  Again, with the dumb people put in places of power and control. Some days I am amazed we haven’t had a revolution yet…

Then there is the story of Catherine Englebrecht, another victim of the IRS Tyranny (yes, that is what I’m calling it), you can read the story here .It amazes me how this is growing leaps and bounds and it is getting some traction. I am blown away by the serious mental issues the “Progressives” are showing.

Then police selling back buyback guns to dealers.  Veteran charged and his rifles confiscated after shooting at a burglar. Feds declare that people that buy weapons in border states have to be reported to ATF.

It goes on and one. One short long week…

My Summary: We, as a human race, are becoming, lazy, stupid, and illogical. Maybe the Fluoride in the water really did screw us up as children. Between no respect for those that have given, and yes it was given, the ultimate sacrifice, thinking humor is appropos at all times, and killing the patient to stop the disease, how much stupider can we get? I mean really, Progressives? Let’s call it was it really is; brain damaged, egotistical, Marxist-Leninists, that have no comprehension of Common Sense.

We need to question everything and look really do a inventory check of our values and our priorities and where they lie.  My god, I really don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican or a Libertarian (Marxists, just go jump in volcano), just stop what the hell you’re doing and honestly re-evaluate your Chi. Ask honest questions, for Popeye’s Sake. Be honest with yourself.

Respect Memorial Day. Be sure soldiers have what they need and don’t get resentful. (Think Newburgh Conspiracy and Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783). Quite electing El Stupidos. Drink more milk…

Oh, and watch out for a Killer Comet in your ‘hood.

 

My Commentary for the Week of May 19th

Cocky Much

Quite a bit has happened this week. Where do I begin?

Riots in Stockholm

I think I’ll start with the riots in Stockholm. Yesterday marked the fifth day of rioting. Youth setting ablaze businesses and cars. Firefighters were called to over 70 locations, over 30 cars torched, 50 businesses.

Why? Well, a man, an immigrant, in this most perfect of Socialist countries, was welding a machete, acting “crazy”. He was shot dead by police. There is that. Then it snowballed into young immigrants feeling disenfranchised becoming angry and destroying personal property: read poor, uneducated, immigrants angry about the disparity between the poor and the rich, about the racism.

My Summary: Riots in Stockholm? Really? That ‘s like bishops rioting in the Vatican.  Whereas you can enforce equality in society, eventually, it will break down.  We may be born equal, and it may be the most wisest to live the Golden Rule, but eventually, someone is going to blow up because you have something that they don’t. And it isn’t fair. It isn’t right. they should have it, too.

Not gonna happen.

Boy Scouts.

Wow, I should have seen this coming. There are religious arguments, the traditional arguments; What God said is wrong, Boy Scouts is a traditional instution. I don’t care about that,here’s the thing for me. Jr. high and high schools boys and girls sharing lockers, or bathrooms. I don’t see any parents all exited about any school changing the bathrooms to co-ed or the locker rooms, and showers. Now school has nothing to do about sex or sexual preference, it’s about the education,  right? So why don’t they allow for co-ed bathrooms? Because it is inappropriate. Because the young are young, and hormones abound. If you were a preteen or a teen girl, would you feel comfortable taking a shower with boys? Changing clothes? Would you feel comfortable if it was your daughter?

My Summary: Look, I don’t care about your sexual preference. I don’t have enough data to say if it is morally wrong or right. I don’t understand it, but I’m libertarian in that regard. What I do care about is consistency. Homosexuals are attracted to the same sex as heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex. It’s not appropriate for girls and boys together in personal spaces, its not appropriate for boys attracted to boys to be together in personal spaces.

IRS Scandal, DOJ Scandal, Benghazi Scandal

This is the administration that keeps on giving, isn’t it? I really wanted to go hardcore on these. I was writing and writing and then deleting and deleting. All you readers have been inundated with the data, I think I’ll just jump to the opinion part, my favorite anyway.

My Summary: I won’t fib, I can’t stand this administration. So it makes it difficult to smack on themwhen it is beating it self up.

Just kidding, I’ll keep doing that. the Cabinets are run by morons. Imbeciles.

We have become an oligarchy. Power rules, ethics lose. Common Sense is gone for this generation. Hopefully, that will change. Maybe a rebirth, say in the 2014 Midterms.

One can pray.

Whew. I need a break. Maybe I will write more, like I said,

Quite a lot has happened this week. Stay tuned.

My Commentary for the Week

Cocky Much

My Commentary for the Week.

These last few weeks have been a trying time on the Administration. Every administration has its scandals, and its detractors. The Left calls it bogus and the Right calls it a cover up, or vice-versa. To make it easier to swallow, imagine it is a Republican administration. Does it make it any more palatable? No.

First off, let’s stay away from the “Well, Bush was a criminal” voices, and let us stick to the current Administration.

Obama would have us believe that government is good. That it can service the People if we just stop putting roadblocks in the way, say, for example, the Constitution. This is a change from the mindset of 30 years ago, when We the People, and the people we voted for, acknowledged that government, as a rule was a necessary evil, that we had to always balance our libertarian ideals with republican virtues. (I trust the reader knows I refer to the construct and not the political party).

What many do not get, and the irony escapes me as if one studies history, one would see that there is data to support the claim that All men are corruptible, and not infallible. Gathering men together into an organization, does not make this less true; rather it compounds it.
I see the “Right” or, or more aptly, those that distrust government,  not paranoids, but rather, logical and realists, in the sense they have history and data to realistically support them and their supposition. They understand Human Nature. And let us get this out of the way now. I’m not speaking of the individuals that are against gay marriage, or anti-drugs. in the scheme of things, this is minor. I speak to the deeper, and more substantive core.

We ask, “Our leaders govern, but who governs them?”.  30 years ago, his was a good trait. Today, even the press, the Fourth Estate, is complicit in pushing ideology instead of being the guardian of liberty in a Republic.

Even our definitions have changed.  In the past, Equality, was the natural right of every individual to live freely under self-government, to acquire and retain the property he creates through his own labor, and to be treated impartially before a just law, as defined by Mark Levin.

Today, it is confused with “Popular Sovereignty”, or “Social Justice”.

Alexis de Tocqueville had it right, when he said, “The evils that extreme equality may produce are slowly disclosed; they creep gradually into the social frame; they are seen only at intervals; and at the moment at which they become most violent, habit already causes them to be no longer felt”

Equality of the general rules of law and conduct is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty and the only equality which we can secure without destroying liberty. Not only has liberty nothing to do with any sort of equality, but it is even bound to produce inequality in many respects. This is the necessary result and part of the justification of individual liberty: if the result of individual liberty did not demonstrate that some manners of living are more successful than others, much of the case for it would vanish.  Friedrich Hayek had this most correct.

This comes to the summation of my opinion: The saw tilts, as the definitions change. 238 years ago, the Founders had it correctly on understanding Human Nature, and nothing is new under the sun, as they say. The things they feared most; a disinterested and an uneducated peoples, mob rule, and a public that could vote themselves wealth, that would be the downfall of our Republic, are coming to pass now.

Remove the labels, use common sense, and logic, reasoning. Reclaim your Republic.

Have the American Ideals Changed?

Reading through the blogs, news articles, opinions and the like, I am beginning to ask myself this question; Have the values that made America, America, changed? Have they shifted so much that black is white and white is black?

30 years ago, if you have asked a teenager about the Soviet Union compared to the United States, they would have commented that Marxism was destroying that country, that America was about becoming anything you wanted, through hard work and personal responsibility. Today, if you ask a teenager about Marxism in America and the the growth of the Federal Government, you would first see a dull look in their eyes, and then they would comment that it’s not important. You see an increase in citizens on the teats of government spending. You see this as been accepted.

You see aliens that are here illegally increasing, and the press supporting this. You see the thought that living on credit and having debt is good; saving is bad.

America, to me, has become like that Star Trek episode, where the children rule the town. All logic goes out the window, and passion rules the day. No common sense, no aforethought.

30 years ago, it was the dream of kids to open a lemonade stand, or sell candy…some type of enterprise, because it was ingrained in us to be fruitful and creative. Today, kids are ticketed for not having a permit, preteens in the ghetto when asked what they want to do when they grow up, declare they want to be a “Drawer”. No, boys and girls, not an artist, but one that “draws” on federal welfare.

30 years ago, in small towns, parents were held accountable for their children, and the town folk were like aunts and uncles; it was accepted that way. Today reporters state that children are not our own, and parents must let the town take part in raising the children.

Sit back and look at the big picture. When we see this happening, what is your decision to counter this? Do you want to counter this? Is this part of a cycle that must happen in order for us to realize the value of what we are losing?

 

Are we now in a Brave New World?

The Second Amendment as an Expression of First Principles

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The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on February 13, 2013, at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

We are currently mired in a frantic debate about the rights of gun owners. One example should suffice to prove that the debate has become hysterical: Second Amendment supporters, one prominent but less than articulate member of Congress alleges, have become “enablers of mass murder.”

Special animus has been directed against so-called assault rifles. These are semi-automatic, not automatic weapons—the latter have been illegal under federal law since the 1930s—because they require a trigger pull for every round fired. Some semi-automatic firearms, to be sure, can be fitted with large-capacity magazines. But what inspires the ire of gun control advocates seems to be their menacing look—somehow they don’t appear fit for polite society. No law-abiding citizen could possibly need such a weapon, we are told—after all, how many rounds from a high-powered rifle are needed to kill a deer? And we are assured that these weapons are not well-adapted for self-defense—that only the military and the police need to have them.

Now it’s undeniable, Senator Dianne Feinstein to the contrary notwithstanding, that semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 are extremely well-adapted for home defense—especially against a crime that is becoming more and more popular among criminals, the home invasion. Over the past two decades, gun ownership has increased dramatically at the same time that crime rates have decreased. Combine this with the fact that most gun crimes are committed with stolen or illegally obtained weapons, and the formula to decrease crime is clear: Increase the number of responsible gun owners and prosecute to the greatest extent possible under the law those who commit gun-related crimes or possess weapons illegally.

Consider also that assault rifles are rarely used by criminals, because they are neither easily portable nor easily concealed. In Chicago, the murder capital of America—a city with draconian gun laws—pistols are the weapon of choice, even for gang-related executions. But of course there are the horrible exceptions—the mass shootings in recent years—and certainly we must keep assault weapons with high-capacity magazines out of the hands of people who are prone to commit such atrocities.

The shooters in Arizona, Colorado, and Newtown were mentally ill persons who, by all accounts, should have been incarcerated. Even the Los Angeles Times admits that “there is a connection between mental illness and mass murder.” But the same progressives who advocate gun control also oppose the involuntary incarceration of mentally ill people who, in the case of these mass shootings, posed obvious dangers to society before they committed their horrendous acts of violence. From the point of view of the progressives who oppose involuntary incarceration of the mentally ill—you can thank the ACLU and like-minded organizations—it is better to disarm the entire population, and deprive them of their constitutional freedoms, than to incarcerate a few mentally ill persons who are prone to engage in violent crimes.

And we must be clear—the Second Amendment is not about assault weapons, hunting, or sport shooting. It is about something more fundamental. It reaches to the heart of constitutional principles—it reaches to first principles. A favorite refrain of thoughtful political writers during America’s founding era held that a frequent recurrence to first principles was an indispensable means of preserving free government—and so it is.

The Whole People Are the Militia
The Second Amendment reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The immediate impetus for the amendment has never been in dispute. Many of the revolutionary generation believed standing armies were dangerous to liberty. Militias made up of citizen-soldiers, they reasoned, were more suitable to the character of republican government. Expressing a widely held view, Elbridge Gerry remarked in the debate over the first militia bill in 1789 that “whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia.”

The Second Amendment is unique among the amendments in the Bill of Rights, in that it contains a preface explaining the reason for the right protected: Militias are necessary for the security of a free state. We cannot read the words “free State” here as a reference to the several states that make up the Union. The frequent use of the phrase “free State” in the founding era makes it abundantly clear that it means a non-tyrannical or non-despotic state. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), rightly remarked that the term and its “close variations” were “terms of art in 18th-century political discourse, meaning a free country or free polity.”

The principal constitutional debate leading up to the Heller decision was about whether the right to “keep and bear arms” was an individual right or a collective right conditioned upon service in the militia. As a general matter, of course, the idea of collective rights was unknown to the Framers of the Constitution—and this consideration alone should have been decisive. We have James Madison’s own testimony that the provisions of the Bill of Rights “relate [first] . . . to private rights.”

The notion of collective rights is wholly the invention of the Progressive founders of the administrative state, who were engaged in a self-conscious effort to supplant the principles of limited government embodied in the Constitution. For these Progressives, what Madison and other Founders called the “rights of human nature” were merely a delusion characteristic of the 18th century. Science, they held, has proven that there is no permanent human nature—that there are only evolving social conditions. As a result, they regarded what the Founders called the “rights of human nature” as an enemy of collective welfare, which should always take precedence over the rights of individuals. For Progressives then and now, the welfare of the people—not liberty—is the primary object of government, and government should always be in the hands of experts. This is the real origin of today’s gun control hysteria—the idea that professional police forces and the military have rendered the armed citizen superfluous; that no individual should be responsible for the defense of himself and his family, but should leave it to the experts. The idea of individual responsibilities, along with that of individual rights, is in fact incompatible with the Progressive vision of the common welfare.

This way of thinking was wholly alien to America’s founding generation, for whom government existed for the purpose of securing individual rights. And it was always understood that a necessary component of every such right was a correspondent responsibility. Madison frequently stated that all “just and free government” is derived from social compact—the idea embodied in the Declaration of Independence, which notes that the “just powers” of government are derived “from the consent of the governed.” Social compact, wrote Madison, “contemplates a certain number of individuals as meeting and agreeing to form one political society, in order that the rights, the safety, and the interests of each may be under the safeguard of the whole.” The rights to be protected by the political society are not created by government—they exist by nature—although governments are necessary to secure them. Thus political society exists to secure the equal protection of the equal rights of all who consent to be governed. This is the original understanding of what we know today as “equal protection of the laws”—the equal protection of equal rights.

Each person who consents to become a member of civil society thus enjoys the equal protection of his own rights, while at the same time incurring the obligation to protect the rights of his fellow citizens. In the first instance, then, the people are a militia, formed for the mutual protection of equal rights. This makes it impossible to mistake both the meaning and the vital importance of the Second Amendment: The whole people are the militia, and disarming the people dissolves their moral and political existence.

Arms and Sovereignty
The Preamble to the Constitution stipulates that “We the people . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.” It is important to note that the people establish the Constitution; the Constitution does not establish the people. When, then, did “we the people” become a people? Clearly Americans became a people upon the adoption of its first principles of government in the Declaration of Independence, which describes the people both in their political capacity, as “one people,” and in their moral capacity, as a “good people.” In establishing the Constitution, then, the people executed a second contract, this time with government. In this contract, the people delegate power to the government to be exercised for their benefit. But the Declaration specifies that only the “just powers” are delegated. The government is to be a limited government, confined to the exercise of those powers that are fairly inferred from the specific grant of powers.

Furthermore, the Declaration specifies that when government becomes destructive of the ends for which it is established—the “Safety and Happiness” of the people—then “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” This is what has become known as the right of revolution, an essential ingredient of the social compact and a right which is always reserved to the people. The people can never cede or delegate this ultimate expression of sovereign power. Thus, in a very important sense, the right of revolution (or even its threat) is the right that guarantees every other right. And if the people have this right as an indefeasible aspect of their sovereignty, then, by necessity, the people also have a right to the means to revolution. Only an armed people are a sovereign people, and only an armed people are a free people—the people are indeed a militia.

The Declaration also contains an important prudential lesson with respect to the right to revolution: “Prudence . . . will dictate,” it cautions, “that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” It is only after “a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object,” and when that object “evinces a design to reduce [the People] to absolute Despotism,” that “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Here the Declaration identifies the right of revolution, not only as a right of the people, but as a duty as well—indeed, it is the only duty mentioned in the Declaration.

The prudential lessons of the Declaration are no less important than its assertion of natural rights. The prospect of the dissolution of government is almost too horrible to contemplate, and must be approached with the utmost circumspection. As long as the courts are operating, free and fair elections are proceeding, and the ordinary processes of government hold out the prospect that whatever momentary inconveniences or dislocations the people experience can be corrected, then they do not represent a long train of abuses and usurpations and should be tolerated. But we cannot remind ourselves too often of the oft-repeated refrain of the Founders: Rights and liberties are best secured when there is a “frequent recurrence to first principles.”

The Current Legal Debate
In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that for the first time held unambiguously that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual the right to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia quoted Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, a work well known to the Founders. Blackstone referred to “the natural right of resistance and self-preservation,” which necessarily entailed “the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.” Throughout his opinion, Justice Scalia rightly insisted that the Second Amendment recognized rights that preexisted the Constitution. But Justice Scalia was wrong to imply that Second Amendment rights were codified from the common law—they were, in fact, “natural rights,” deriving their status from the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

In his Heller dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens boldly asserted that “there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.” In a perverse way, Justice Stevens was correct for the same reason Justice Scalia was wrong: What the Framers did was to recognize the natural right of self-defense. Like the right to revolution, the right to self-defense or self-preservation can never be ceded to government. In the words of James Wilson—a signer of the Declaration, a member of the Constitutional Convention, and an early justice of the Supreme Court—“the great natural law of self-preservation . . . cannot be repealed, or superseded, or suspended by any human institution.”

Justice Stevens, however, concluded that because there is no clause in the Constitution explicitly recognizing the common law right of self-defense, it is not a constitutional right and therefore cannot authorize individual possession of weapons. What Justice Stevens apparently doesn’t realize is that the Constitution as a whole is a recognition of the “the great natural law of self-preservation,” both for the people and for individuals. Whenever government is unwilling or unable to fulfill the ends for which it exists—the safety and happiness of the people—the right of action devolves upon the people, whether it is the right of revolution or the individual’s right to defend person and property.

Justice Scalia noted that those who argued for a collective-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment have the impossible task of showing that the rights protected by the Second Amendment are collective rights, whereas every other right protected by the Bill of Rights is an individual right. It is true that the Second Amendment states that “the people” have the right to keep and bear arms. But other amendments refer to the rights of “the people” as well. The Fourth Amendment, for example, guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizure.” But there seems to be universal agreement that Fourth Amendment rights belong to individuals.

And what of the First Amendment’s protection of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances?” Justice Stevens argues that these rights are collective rights. After all, he avers, “they contemplate collective actions.” It is true, the Justice concedes, that the right to assemble is an individual right, but “its concern is with action engaged in by members of a group, rather than any single individual.” And the right to petition government for a redress of grievances is similarly, he says, “a right that can be exercised by individuals,” even though “it is primarily collective in nature.” Its collective nature, he explains, means that “if they are to be effective, petitions must involve groups of individuals acting in concert.” Even though individuals may petition government for redress, it is more “effective” if done in concert with others, even though “concert” is not necessary to the existence or the exercise of the right.

With respect to assembly, Justice Stevens argues, there cannot be an assembly of one. An “assembly” is a collection of individual rights holders who have united for common action or to promote a common cause. But who could argue that the manner in which the assemblage takes place, or the form that it takes, significantly qualifies or limits the possession or exercise of the right? We might as well argue that freedom of speech is a collective right because freedom of speech is most effectively exercised when there are auditors; or that freedom of the press is a collective right because it is most effectively exercised when there are readers. Justice Stevens’ argument is thus fanciful, not to say frivolous.

The Court in Heller did indicate, however, that there could be some reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. “Longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” for example, will continue to meet constitutional muster. Laws that forbid “carrying firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings” are also reasonable regulations, as are “conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” The prohibition on “dangerous and unusual weapons”—including automatic firearms—fall outside Second Amendment guarantees as well.

But the Heller decision is clear that handgun possession for self-defense is absolutely protected by the Second Amendment. Can handguns be carried outside the home as part of “the inherent right of self-defense?” The Court indicated that handguns can be prohibited in “sensitive places,” but not every place outside the home is sensitive. And if carrying weapons in a non-sensitive area is protected by the Second Amendment, can there be restrictions on concealed carrying? These are all questions that will have to be worked out in the future, if not by legislation, then by extensive litigation.

The Supreme Court took a further important step in securing Second Amendment rights in McDonald v. Chicago (2010), ruling that these rights as articulated in Hellerwere fundamental rights, and thus binding on the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We have to remember, however, that both of these cases were decided by narrow, 5-4 majorities, and that new appointments of more progressive-minded justices to the Court could easily bring about a reversal.

For the moment, Second Amendment rights seem safe, but in the long term a political defense will be a more effective strategy. As Abraham Lincoln once remarked, “Whoever moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.” Shaping and informing public sentiments—public opinion—is political work, and thus it is to politics that we must ultimately resort.

* * *

In the current climate of public opinion, Congress will have little appetite for passing an assault gun ban. More likely, it will be satisfied with passing legislation aimed at gun trafficking and tightening background checks. We must remember, however, President Obama’s pledge: “If Congress won’t act then I will.” He has already issued 23 gun-related executive orders, and some of them are rather curious. One of them notes that there is nothing in the Affordable Care Act that prevents doctors from asking patients about guns in the home; another directs “the Centers for Disease Control to research the cause and prevention of gun violence.”

The President’s power to act through executive orders is as extensive as it is ill-defined. Congress routinely delegates power to executive branch agencies, and the courts accord great deference to agency rule-making powers, often interpreting ambiguous legislative language or even legislative silence as a delegation of power to the executive. Such delegation provokes fundamental questions concerning the separation of powers and the rule of law. Many have argued that it is the price we have to pay for the modern administrative state—that the separation of powers and the rule of law have been rendered superfluous by the development of this state. Some of the boldest proponents of this view confidently insist that the triumph of the administrative state has propelled us into a post-constitutional era where the Constitution no longer matters.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 gives the President the discretion to ban guns he deems not suitable for sporting purposes. Would the President be bold enough or reckless enough to issue an executive order banning the domestic manufacture and sale of assault rifles? Might he argue that these weapons have no possible civilian use and should be restricted to the military, and that his power as commander-in-chief authorizes him so to act? Or perhaps sometime in the near future he will receive a report from the Centers for Disease Control that gun violence has become a national health epidemic, with a recommendation that he declare a national health emergency and order the confiscation of all assault weapons. Congress could pass legislation to defeat such an executive order; but could a divided Congress muster the votes?—and in any case, the President could resort to his veto power. Individuals would have resort to the courts; but as of yet, we have had no ruling that assault weapons are not one of the exceptions that can be banned or regulated under Heller. We could make the case that assault rifles are useful for self-defense and home defense; but could we make the case that they are essential? Would the courts hold that the government had to demonstrate a compelling interest for a ban on assault rifles, as it almost certainly would have to do if handguns were at issue?

Are these simply wild speculations? Perhaps—probably! But they are part of the duty we have as citizens to engage in a frequent recurrence to first principles.

 

~ Edward J. Erler

Regards to Adam Smith (and Why He is Important Even Today)

“To prohibit a great people [the American colonials]…from making all that they can of every part of their own produce, or from employing their [capital] and industry in the way that they judge most advantageous to themselves, is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776.

“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.” Thomas Jefferson, “Declaration of Independence,” 1776.

In these two passages we find one of the common elements in the two significant bicentennials we celebrate this year. The common element is the conviction that man is endowed by a source greater than himself with certain natural and hence inalienable rights, (in-a-lien-able). This common element in the two bicentennials is one of the themes I shall develop in these comments of mine. But first let me hasten to admit that, in the households of the United States in 2013, his name (the publication of The Wealth of Nations and the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence) is not held in equal awareness or veneration, nor does Adam Smith’s name compete for the attention of the young with that of Thomas Jefferson. Yet it is my firm conviction that the members of our own society (and in fact of all societies based on the concept of freedom under law) must look to Smith as well as to Jefferson (and his fellow Founding Fathers) to fully understand our goodly heritage of freedom with order.

Here, as in all matters of judgment, I admit to bias. Adam Smith is generally known as the Father of Economics, the field of study which is also my own. Moreover, Smith’s brand of economics, carrying the trademarks of voluntary exchange, freedom in the marketplace and limited government, is also my brand of economics—Brand X though it may have become in today’s intellectual marketplace. Finally, I believe Adam Smith not only to have been possessed of true wisdom about the nature and possibilities of the human condition but also to have been possessed of a capacity to communicate those ideas with great clarity and great style. In other words, I am an admitted, card-carrying Adam Smith buff.

With no embarrassment, I admit that I hope through these words to encourage some of you who may now know little of Smith and his work to come to want to know more. Even for those who bring to their studies of Smith a presupposition against his strong free market policy position, there is something to be gained. His writing is free of that obscurantism, technical jargon and complicated mathematics that distinguish most modern materials in economics. In Smith’s writings, the case for what might be roughly called “capitalism” is put in so clear and straight-forward a fashion that it makes a useful stone against which even the convinced socialist can hone his own counter-arguments. Finally, no one who professes to understand even commonly well the course of events of these last two hundred years can afford to be ignorant of the influence on that course of events of the ideas of Adam Smith, whether they have been proven right or wrong. In the words of the historian, Henry Thomas Buckle, in his The History of Civilization, published in the middle of the last century: “In the year 1776, Adam Smith published his Wealth of Nations, which, looking at its ultimate results, is probably the most important book that has ever been written…(p. 122) Even a true Smith buff may be at least mildly embarrassed by this claim, but that his ideas did have consequences no one can really doubt (but more on this later).

Who was this man, what did he have to say in 1776 and how, if at all, is his thinking relevant to the world of 2013? Adam Smith was born in Kircaldy, Scotland in 1723 and died in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1790. In between he lived a life free of scandal, wife or children, great incident and severe disappointment. He was a student (at Glasgow and Oxford), a teacher (at Glasgow and Edinburgh) and a scholar, and his friends were students, teachers and scholars—but also artists, writers, businessmen and men of affairs. In a sense, though, he was the true “spectator” of the human scene, involved in that scene, yes, but always capable of detached analysis and appraisal of everything that came within his view.

My intent here is to concentrate on Smith’s words and ideas and on their usefulness (if any) in interpreting the modern scene. Those of you who wish to know more of Smith’s life or of the intellectual influences that shaped his thinking or of his weaknesses and strengths as a pure technician in the science of economics will need to look elsewhere.

My plan is as follows: First, to present in concise form what I see as Smith’s view of the social order. Next, to identify the ways in which he applied this view to the world of his day, particularly the British treatment of the American colonies. Finally, to identify those ways in which it seems to me that Smith speaks most directly to the problems and possibilities of today’s world.

Section I — Smith’s basic argument

We begin with what I believe to be the essence of the Smith argument—but first a word of preparation. Smith is known as the Father of Economics and the book whose bicentennial year we now celebrate has as its complete title, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The first sentence of Chapter I, Book I, reads as follows: “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is any where directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.” These substantial straws in the wind would seem to imply that we are about to grapple with a pure piece of economic analysis applied to the essentially vulgar question of how to multiply the quantity of “things” in a nation—and indeed Smith does have a kind word for those vulgar “things” when he writes that, “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” (p. 79)

But to see Smith as nothing more than an early-day consultant on how to make everyone rich is to do him an injustice. Smith was first and foremost a professor of moral philosophy and his economic analysis was in a sense a by-product of his concern with such questions as the nature of the universe, the nature of man and the relationship of the individual to society.

When curiosity turns his attention to “the wealth of nations,” he begins in effect by reaching into his philosopher’s cupboard for the basic materials of his proposed studies. First and foremost he draws out his conviction that there exists a natural order in the universe which, if properly understood and lived in accordance with, tends to produce the “good.” Coordinate with and deriving from this natural order is a set of natural rights of individuals (recall the phrasing of the opening passage from Smith—”the most sacred rights of mankind”). For a society to live in harmony with the natural order requires that it respect those “most sacred rights of mankind.”

But what does all this have to do with getting more bread on the table? Comes now Smith, the eternal spectator, the observer of all that transpires around him, who is also curious as to what puts more bread on the table. His observations tell him very quickly that the wealth of a nation is primarily determined “by the skill, dexterity and judgment with which its labour is generally applied.” But by what in turn are these determined? By two primary factors: (1) the extent to which the division of labor is carried in the society, and (2) the stock of capital available to the laborers.

But what forces give rise to or permit of the division of labor and the accumulation of capital? Must it be the forces of the ruler, commanding one man to do this and another to do that and ordering all to go without so that the stock of capital may grow? Not at all, replies Smith, the observer-philosopher. In the natural order of things, man is so disposed to act as to promote these very ends without the necessity of external commands.

The division of labor finds some part of its initial support in man’s natural instinct to truck and barter. More importantly, the apparent problem of securing each man’s cooperation in serving the needs of others proves to be no problem at all. His cooperation is readily secured, not out of his benevolence, but out of his natural regard for his own interest. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.”

Thus the seeds of the division of labor lie in the very nature of man, that is, in the natural order. In the same way, man’s desire for improvement induces him to save and hence to accumulate the capital needed to add even further to the productivity of labor.

But how are the activities of all of these specialists coordinated, what assures that the various parts and processes will be brought together properly in time and place and quantity and quality and all other relevant attributes? Surely here the offices of government must be required. Not at all, Smith replies; a spontaneous order emerges in the very nature of things, an order that arises out of the interaction in the marketplace between the two great forces of supply and demand.

If any one element in this complex chain comes to be in short supply, its price will rise and suppliers will be induced to bring more to the market; in cases of excess supply, the reverse. In this way, in Smith’s words, “the quantity of every commodity brought to market naturally suits itself to the effectual demand.” (p. 57)

The marketplace, then, as a spontaneously emerging and self-regulating process, is but the natural order at work in the ordering of economic life.

The pattern is now complete and he concludes as follows:

As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenues of the society as great as he can. He generally indeed neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows by how much he is promoting it…[H] e intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. (p. 423)

Continuing with Smith’s words,

All systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interest of the society. According to the system of natural liberty, the sovereign has only three duties to attend to; three duties of great importance, indeed, but plain and intelligible to common understandings: first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice; and, thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions. (p. 651)

 

Tomorrow, I shall continue with Smith’s thinking applied to the problems of his day….