OK, now that we are arriving at the end game for the government shutdown, we need to once again find our bearings.
Many conservative commentators want to point fingers, say this person or that did or did not do damage to the GOP cause, etc. etc..
What a complete waste of time and effort.
I find the blame game to be worthwhile only in teaching us what we can do better next time. And in that line of thought, I personally do my blaming behind closed doors. Airing our dirty laundry for others to later use against us is a level of stupidity I simply cannot understand. Yes, mistakes were made. Yes, we could have done better and should do better. But bad talking our own team in the public does none of us any good.
In the weeks to come, I am sure the media and Democrats will try to maintain the public focus on the government shutdown. This, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans barely knew there was a shutdown, nor really cared that much. The polling that the media likes to repeat over and over again showing poor support for the GOP strategy also consistently shows the public largely didn’t think this episode was all that relevant to their daily lives. Surprise, surprise.
The biggest drawback to the timing of the defunding maneuver and government shutdown was it took the media spotlight off the debacle of the Obamacare exchange website rollout. Our entire focus should be on that issue for the next few months.
Our job is to get the focus back on the issues that matter. In the short-term, that is the Obamacare rollout.
Obama will do what he always does: he will try to distract. Maybe it will be gun control, maybe some abortion issue, I have no idea. But he usually flashes some shiny object at conservatives, and we jump at it.
We need to keep our eye on the ball. No shiny objects, no ‘SQUIRREL!’ moments.
The website disaster is only the tip of the iceberg. The website itself will likely not be fully functional for months, if then. Then, early in 2014, the deadlines for IRS penalties come quickly, as everyone must have proof of insurance by February 14th. How this is going to occur with the current website dysfunction, nobody in the administration can answer.
Then, to compound matters, the sticker shock is starting to resonate. Average Americans are seeing extraordinary premium costs, on top of decreased access and higher deductibles . To be sure, some people are seeing lower costs, primarily from the large subsidies the Federal Government is providing. But these are not the people who matter; most of these people are actually going to end up in the Medicaid system.
The people who really matter, that the CBO and others state MUST buy insurance to make this system work, are young people, with young families. Their insurance rates on average are going to be significantly higher than before. These are the people who the GOP must listen to, hear their cries for help, and then allow their message to resonate to the rest of America.
So let whatever deal is going to happen on the shutdown come sooner rather than later. And then, we can focus on the grand incompetence that is the Affordable Care Act.
So in the fury of the Government Shutdown, the left has become apoplectic about the “Affordable Care Act”. You’ll more likely recognize it as “Obamacare”. They consider it to be Constitutionally tested by the Supreme Court, therefore it’s the “law of the land”.
This logic is fundamentally unsound, let’s debunk it.
1) The Constitution does not grant “kingly” powers to the Supreme Court. Their job is to rule on the law brought before them, and to clear up controversies between states.
2) Nowhere in article III of the Constitution or in the Federalist papers, Thomas Jefferson’s letters, etc do you see that the Supreme Court was supposed to be the “final say”. Jefferson in fact believed their power should be limited even further, than the Constitution did already.
3) We know for a fact the left doesn’t actually believe their own words. Let’s go through their history of fighting against the Constitution itself :
3.A) The Progressive Income tax was tried several times before the amendment was brought up and each time it was found unconstitutional. Did that stop the Progressives from trying to trash the Constitution and implement their marxist utopian tax? NOPE. They kept fighting and eventually (and illegally) amended the Constitution to add the Progressive Income tax.
4) The Supreme Court only ruled on one part of the law, the individual mandate. But as this site states;
Feel free to examine the entire text of Article III to assure yourself that no power of Judicial Review is granted by the Constitution.
“Well,” you might say, “someone has to review laws for constitutionality. Why not the Supreme Court?” Some possible answers:
First and foremost, it is not a power granted to the Supreme Court by the Constitution. When the Supreme Court exercises Judicial Review, it is acting unconstitutionally.
It is a huge conflict of interest. The Federal Government is judging the constitutionality of its own laws. It is a classic case of “the fox guarding the hen house.”
The Constitution’s “checks and balances” were designed to prevent any one branch of government (legislative, executive or judicial) from becoming too powerful and running roughshod over the other branches. There is no such system of checks and balances to protect the states and the people when multiple branches of government, acting in concert, erode and destroy the rights and powers of the states and the people.
Even if the Supreme Court could be counted on to keep the Executive and Legislative branches from violating the Constitution, who is watching the Supreme Court and will prevent the Judicial branch from acting unconstitutionally? Unless you believe that the Supreme Court is infallible (and, demonstrably, it is not), then allowing the Supreme Court to be the sole arbiter of Constitutionality issues is obviously flawed.
Justices are appointed, not elected and may only be removed for bad behavior (which has happened in the distant past but these days, appointment to the Supreme Court is like a lifetime appointment). If the court upholds unconstitutional laws, there is no recourse available. We the People cannot simply vote them out to correct the situation. Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1823:”At the establishment of our constitution, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account.“
Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the individual mandate was ruled constitutional by the Government. They are exercising an authority that doesn’t belong to them. It certainly was never meant to be the *final* verdict on constitutionality. As http://constitutionality.us/SupremeCourt.html – so poignantly points out;
“It is the Constitution, not the Supreme Court, which is the Supreme Law of the Land. Even the Supreme Court should be accountable for overstepping Constitutional limits on federal power.”
Obamacare is bad and unconstitutional law, just like the Alcohol Prohibition, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, and Slavery, which was also upheld in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is not the final say in our Country, we are not a country ruled by Justices. The Constitution is the final say, and it’s up to EACH body and Representative to uphold and fight for that document. The Government Shutdown MUST continue until we defund/delay the implementation of this HORRIBLE law, that none of the proponents bothered to read before voting YES.
The goal of Obamacare, is not to increase Health Care access.
It’s goal is to decrease the amount of money we’re spending on Health Care. That’s all the left talks about. How much more we spend on Healthcare than countries with “wonderful” universal Healthcare.
I hate to burst their bubble, but life is not all sunshine and lollipops with Universal Healthcare. ObamaCare AKA the Affordable Care Act, is a step towards Universal Healthcare and will destroy the wonderful Health Care this nation enjoys.
It is completely appropriate to compare it to Slavery, as the Government will judge your worth, and determine if you are worthy of being helped. You belong to the state.
That is why Republicans need to keep the Government Shutdown! We CANNOT stop fighting hard enough against this bill, it is bondage.
What American Exceptionalism Meant, What Destroyed It, and How we can Re-establish our Heritage
While listening to the September 10th episode of the Adam Carolla Show(Warning and apologies!!! Not Safe for Family Setting or Work! I love ACS, but he’s rough. Not for those averse to cursing and VERY blue humor!) I was pleased to hear Adam’s continued collaboration with Dennis Prager. The discussion they had inspired me to write about the decline of the very spirit that drove the first Americans to fight tooth and nail, risking annihilation, to defend the liberty they believed was their right as a matter of natural law.
Our Nation’s Founding was an Anomaly
Our Nation’s Founders belief that their rights were not given to them as a result of their government’s benevolence, but were instead theirs simply as a result of the citizen’s existence, was a foreign concept in all of the world. Furthermore, that the government didn’t derive its status as the overseer of these natural rights from some other source, but that the right to govern was bestowed upon the government by the citizenry, was the most revolutionary idea ever implemented up to that point, or since. This seemingly complex, but in reality, very simple concept is the primary reason why America is Exceptional. This is why people who believe in the Constitutional Republic our Founders created as the “most perfect” form of governance also firmly believe in American Exceptionalism.
Dennis Prager spent a large portion of his life studying Russian history, philosophy and political culture. You could say he’s something of an expert in the subject, both in terms of what the Soviet Union was like before the Iron Curtain fell, and afterward in a post-Soviet Russia. His understanding of the gestalt of Russian society is profound, and can be summed up thusly:
Russians want very little out of life. They want their vodka, they want their housing and their heating in the winter. They want their health care, and they want to be left alone.
Simply put, Russians are content to be taken care of as long as that which they have been promised continues to come to them unbidden. Entitlement is a way of life in Russia, and has been for generations. The people know very little of the more noble aspects of human nature, that which drives us to achieve more than previous generations in an effort to better the self, and through self-improvement, better society. That isn’t to say that Russian society is absent these aspects; there is simply no reason to better the self when one’s needs are seen to absent effort beyond what is asked for by the government. The effect is a muting of aspiration and the desire to excel.
Human Nature is What Drives Us to Excel
Human nature is, at its very core, selfish. The betterment of society is never really the goal while the individual is pursuing betterment of the self; more importantly, self-improvement has the very catalytic side effect of the bettering of the society in which one lives. When you mow your lawn and care for the upkeep of your home your neighborhood is improved by the aesthetics of your home’s facade. Your neighbors see your property, and, through the mechanics of human nature’s more basic trait of jealousy, more often than not will endeavor to emulate or improve upon the conditions your home’s facade presents, thus spreading the improvement you have made of yourself throughout your neighborhood. This cascading of competitive behavior and outcomes is what shapes positive societal evolution. This all, of course, depends heavily on the preservation of personal property rights. Absent ownership, the desire to improve one’s material conditions loses meaning. If your home is yours, but your neighbor’s home isn’t theirs, well, they may very well not care a whit about the attention you pay to the aesthetics of your home’s facade. Therein lies a fundamental problem. Without empowerment through the ability to possess property obtained through one’s efforts above and beyond that which sustains the self and the family, one finds no need to excel. Excellence garners rewards. In Russia, there have been no rewards for excellence for quite some time.
Russia is far from a utopian society. However, Russians having their simple needs fulfilled by an all-powerful centralized government, and in such a manner and for so long so as to render desire for more pointless, had a grand purpose. A pliable and uncomplaining workforce focused toward the sustainment of the status quo created a means for continued control of the populace to support the avarice of the ruling elite. There is no equivalency between those who “serve” in Russian Government and the citizen. There never has been. To allow for the citizen to hold the same status under the law as the ruling class allows for the ruling class to be pulled from their towers to be judged by the same laws and regulations that were created to control the citizenry by that same ruling class.
What Exceptionalism Created, Progressivism Attempted to Destroy
America, in similar fashion, has lost her way. We’ve begun wholesale emulation of what the Russian Government has been doing to its citizenry, albeit in a much more benevolent manner. Starting in 1913, the Progressive Movement, with several well–aimedstrokes, weakened the constraints which, until that time, had prevented direct Federal interaction with the citizen in fundamental ways. The passage of the 16th Amendment created a means with which the Federal Government could interact directly with the individual as a “taxable person”. Never before in American History was the Federal Government able to impact the individual so fundamentally. The scope of this Amendment has been considered the catalyst that created a cascade of Statism through American society; a society which, until that time, had never seen direct interaction between the Federal Government and the individual in any regard. Following the passage of both the 16th Amendment and the Revenue Act of 1913, the relationship between the individual and the Government whose power was derived from said individual had become radically altered. From 1913 on, individuals were expected to provide proof of their income from all sources, under penalty of law, so as to provide revenue to the Federal Government. This revenue was to be used to fund such activities as were to be apportioned by the Congress. For the first time in American history, save for the years preceding the Revolutionary War, Americans were forced by a Government to pay a tax to said Government; a tax that didn’t have a direct defined purpose. 126 years earlier the Founders of the United States had just finished ratifying a Constitution that was birthed from the ashes of a war fought for, among other things, the very purpose of casting off the shackles of taxation without purpose or representation. In two very clear examples of Progressive Statism, Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats who controlled the House and Senate at the time did to America what Americans had bled to defend against at our Nation’s Founding. While it can be argued that the Revenue Act of 1913 lowered tariffs in such a way so as to encourage commerce, the development of the individual income tax created a means through which the Federal Government was able to, in six short years, eclipse the entirety of all tariff revenue which, up to that point, had been the bulk of the Federal Government’s revenue stream. The direct confiscation of income from the American Citizen was to become the proverbial golden goose, and, it was thought, she would never stop laying eggs.
As if to add insult to injury, and, quite possibly in defense of the Progressive Movement’s steam-rolling of individual sovereignty with the 16th Amendment and the Revenue Act of 1913, Congress passed, and the States ratified, the 17th Amendment, decoupling the State’s only influence over the legislative activities of Congress. Prior to 1913, Congressional Senatorial Seats were filled by an electoral process governed by the individual State Legislatures. The States had a means of controlling the Senator they sent to serve in Congress, and therein the States retained a measure of sovereignty, and through that measure a means of influencing Federal legislative outcomes. Because the House of Representatives was elected directly via popular vote, the Founders saw the Senate as being a means for the States to have the ability to counter pure majoritarianism in Congress by allowing for the States to place Senators chosen by their legislatures as opposed to chosen by the same electoral process as elected the House Congressional Representatives. This was seen as a means of divesting power from those states that enjoyed a large population, such as New York and New Jersey, when compared to the Southern States such as Georgia and the Carolinas. With each state only having two Senators, the legislatures in the various states selecting those Senators allowed for the states to check the House of Representatives’ population based representation; Two Senators for every state as opposed to a Representative for every 647,000, giving each state an equal ability to counter legislation by more populous states, should a counter be desired or warranted.
Following the ratification of the 17th Amendment, the Progressive Movement had established a means of controlling outcomes in the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government by effectively institutionalizing majoritarian rule. This single act flew in the face of 126 years of Federalism, having the crippling effect of creating a democracy where a republican form of government had been established. From this point forward the will of the people in population centers would wash over the land, flooding over the banks of Federalism and effectively eliminating the boundaries created by the 10th Amendment by establishing an all-powerful centralized government absent the ability for individual states to redress their grievances through legislative action in the Senate. The 17th Amendment, though seemingly simple in language, decoupled the states from the legislative process, and thereby destroyed over a century’s worth of Federalism. Following its ratification, the 17th Amendment created a Congress whose power derived directly from the popular vote in totality, and, as such, the political power of population centers such as New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco became the means through which Congress’s power was expanded. As Statists were elected to more and more seats for more and more terms, the representation of the states waned, and eventually became irrelevant.
What had made America exceptional on the world stage in terms of governance was supplanted with Federal entitlement and the empowerment of sloth. Exceptionalism in America stemmed from the most admirable aspects of human nature that drove human beings to better themselves and the lives of their loved ones through self-improvement, innovation and delayed gratification in hopes of improved outcomes. The Progressive Movement saw in these seemingly self-serving character traits the supposed roots of evil, and sought to disarm those who had built, as a matter of pursuing their dreams, independence; Independence, even, from the need to be governed. The Progressives thought they had a better way.
Progressives saw government, and the pursuit of the power that it grants, as a means to an Utopian end. Their goal was a society where no one need want for anything. The core failing in this pursuit, however, is that key aspects of human nature that our Founders sought to empower so as to encourage America to thrive were entirely ignored. Aspiration is not an evil. Aspiration is what drives the Progressive Movement, at least in terms of its leadership’s aspirations of power of their fellow man. However, as is common in many progressive legislative measures, even to this day, the ends always justify any means, even the subversion of individual liberty, so as to create an equality of outcomes instead of an equality of opportunities. This phenomenon has, over the course of the ensuing century, created an entitlement mentality that has stymied the American Spirit, and thus undermines the Exceptionalism America used to be recognized for – both within and outside her borders.
American Exceptionalism, or that which drove Americans at our Founding to fight, knowing failure guaranteed annihilation, to establish “…a more perfect union…” that would endure all tests, so as to protect, defend and empower the futures of their progeny into perpetuity, had, in one short year, and the century that followed, been effectively dismantled and replaced with a form of governance very much like that which the Founders had cast off only 126 years prior. America, during World War 1 and World War 2 showed, for two brief moments in history, that she could be Exceptional again, but, as with many moments, these were fleeting, and the damage that had been done by the Progressive Movement dragged society back to the baser aspects of socialistic rule.
Welfare, a “social safety net”, Medicare; wealth redistribution methods made possible expressly by the 16th Amendment and Supreme Court decisions upholding their Constitutionality, allowed for ever more direct control over the citizenry by the Federal Government. Where the government used to derive its authority to govern from the people it was sworn to defend, now the people derive their subsistence in order to survive from the ability for the Government to tax their neighbors and the rest of society, or the benevolence of that Government to not tax all of their income to provide for the State’s, and thus the citizen’s neighbor’s, needs. These entitlements have been more destructive to society than we can ever truly know. As people find they are not truly responsible for their livelihoods they also find that they do not have a desire to see that their lives are improved through their ability to excel. The individual’s needs met, society declined due to the weakening of the will of the individual having been very softly, but thoroughly, broken. Through effective propaganda campaigns developed around the premise that those who have obviously gathered their wealth at the expense of those who have not, the poor, near poor and the “middle class” were lulled into an acceptance that Government would see justice served, and, as long as the entitlements continued to flow, the population was accepting of this fallacy.
There is Hope
Our fates are not sealed. American Exceptionalism does not have to die in the annals of history, a forgotten relic of an age that may never be realized again. There are those Conservatives who understand the words I have written here, and who feel within themselves the desire and drive to excel. Perhaps that drive is due to the indomitable human spirit and the more noble aspects of human nature. If this is the case, perhaps, then, there is hope.
Liberty’s Torch still burns. Her torch burns in the hearts of men and women across this great nation, once great for casting off her shackles of tyranny, and perhaps great again for the same act. I implore you to take the opportunity to read a book that has educated and inspired me to express my desire to see America restored to her now nearly forgotten greatness. “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic”, by Mark Levin, is a clearly written plan to use the mechanisms established in the Constitution to begin a process of proposing Constitutional Amendments that, if ratified, have the potential of undoing the damage that has been wrought upon the American Republic by the Progressive Movement over the course of the last century. The course is suggested, and it is long, and not without hazard. The course cannot be set without action, and that action starts with the States. The 17th Amendment didn’t completely destroy Federalism, but its impacts have made it seem as though our Federal form of governance had been mortally wounded and left for dead. Article V of the Constitution, crafted specifically by our Founders as a bulwark against an out of control tyrannical Federal Leviathan, created a means through which an organized effort of and by the States can bypass Congress in the creation and ratification of Amendments to the Constitution.
Do not lose hope. America shall not die in the ashes of the fires of socialism and tyranny so long as Patriots are willing to fight to defend her honor. We are stronger than what Statism has seen us show ourselves to be. We have been before, and we shall be again.
The constabulary does not have a legal requirement to protect the citizenry. Their mandate is simply to prosecute crime in progress or in post. There’s quite a bit of propaganda behind the phrase “To Protect and Serve”, but neither is actually part of the actual mission of local and state law enforcement, if the Left’s drivel is to be believed. This is why the gun control debate is so important. The Left wants to remove the very weapons law abiding citizens would use to protect themselves absent a constabulary that would provide that service for us. It is because this service cannot be provided for us in any meaningful way by any government agency that the citizen’s right to protect themselves was affirmed in the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
The other, less clear reason for the very clear affirmation of the unalienable right to bear arms by the citizenry in the Constitution, was as a last defense against tyranny at any level in the Government. This is directly implied in the Amendment, and was clearly expounded upon by the Founders at the time of the Constitutional Convention. The very idea that the constabulary should protect the citizenry at all times should frighten every citizen to their very core. What cost does that protect extract from the citizen? What measures would be deemed acceptable by the Government in pursuit of this protective service’s execution? Over time, what liberties would the citizenry be compelled to surrender in return for the protection the Government would be mandated to provide, should this have been the case throughout history? Further still, how long until the cost once thought to be sufficient is then found lacking, as was found after the passage of the Patriot Act and NDAA and other forms of liberty constricting legislation foisted upon the citizenry by lawmakers under the guise of protection of National Security interests?
The citizens of the United States were positively affirmed in the Constitution to have the unalienable right to bear arms because they were also positively identified as their own last defense against tyrannical threats against their own lives, in singular or multiple forms, be it from assailants or governmental infringements upon one’s person and/or property. There is no reasonable way, under the restrictions the Constitution places on the government in its interaction with the individual, for the government at any level to provide the protection a citizen would need in the event their life was threatened. The Left would have you believe that any means is justifiable in pursuit of the seemingly noble ends of protecting you from harm, both from assailants and from yourself. It is because of their belief that any means are justified that the ends are not to be considered noble, and because of this, any time the Left suggests surrendering the smallest measure of your liberty in return for the smallest measure of protection that they should be seen as tyrants.
James Madison frequently remarked that “all just and free government derives from social compact.” Indeed, this is the basis of government in the Declaration of Independence, which specifies that the “just powers” of government derive from the “consent of the governed.” Because “all men are created equal”—because, that is, no one by nature has the right to rule anyone else—the only legitimate source of rule is the consent of those who are to be ruled, and the only legitimate reason for consent is for the “safety and happiness” of those who agree to be ruled. In agreeing to join civil society, each individual freely accepts the obligation to protect the rights of fellow citizens in return for the protection of his own rights. The “just powers” of government are thus directed to the equal protection of the equal rights of those who consent to be governed. Equal rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—derive from “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Equal protection of those rights is the very definition of the rule of law. Equal protection of the laws is thus intrinsic both to the social compact and to the Constitution. The Constitution states that “We the people . . . do ordain and establish . . . this Constitution,” not that the Constitution creates the people. The people were created by the Declaration of Independence, which mentions the people both in their political capacity—“one people”—and in their moral capacity—a “good people.” Once the people are established, Madison says, a second contract is necessary, this time between the people in its political capacity and the government. By this second contract, the people consent to be governed under the forms of the Constitution and those who occupy the constitutional offices of government pledge to use their powers exclusively to “promote the general welfare” and “secure the blessings of liberty” to the people. However, should the government act in a settled way to disfranchise the people of their rights, the people always reserve the right to alter or abolish the government in order to secure new forms that are better calculated to promote their “safety and happiness.” This is what has come to be known as the right of revolution, a necessary attribute of the people’s sovereignty which serves as the ultimate guarantee of every other right. The right to alter or abolish government is the only obligation mentioned in the Declaration because it is the ultimate expression of the people’s sovereignty. The Constitution was intended by the Framers to put the principles of the Declaration into practice. But as in all things political, it is never possible to translate theory directly into practice. Insofar as the Constitution allowed the continued existence of slavery, it was only an incomplete expression of the Declaration’s principles. Madison argued that the compromises with slavery were necessary to secure the adoption of the Constitution—otherwise the slave-holding states would have bolted the Constitutional Convention. And as the most thoughtful of the Federalists understood, without a strong national government the prospects of ever ending slavery—of ever bringing the Constitution into complete harmony with the Declaration—were remote. Thus the prudential compromises regarding slavery in the Constitution were actually in the service of eventual emancipation. Adoption of the Declaration made the abolition of slavery a moral imperative.
I read something this morning that started a fire in my brain, and now I want to see if it starts a fire in yours. According to a Fox News article, a North Carolina school compelled a young girl to remove religious references from a poem she wrote about her two grandfathers and their Vietnam War experiences during a Veteran’s Day presentation at her school. According to the report, the principal at the West Marion Elementary School was asked to review the appropriateness of the religious references in the poem being performed at a school sponsored function, as it may violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The school agreed with the grievance and the girl was ordered to alter the poem. What bothers me isn’t the school’s knee-jerk reaction. That’s typical, and I recognize it in two parts: 1) a coward’s response to a public that believes they have the right to not be offended, and have been proven correct through successful litigation, 2) a school’s reaction to the first response and deciding that to “err on the side of caution”, as the principal puts it, saves them from having to defend themselves against a costly lawsuit that the plaintiff will invariably not have to fund due to the slavering vociferousness of the ACLU’s desire to destroy any form of public religious expression. What bothers me is that we, as a society, continue to mistakenly apply the First Amendment to institutions to which it is not applicable as a means of restricting Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. Below, the full text of the First Amendment; we’re going to break this down, and then I’m going to point you at a a dissenting viewpoint that, unfortunately, due to legal precedent happens to be the way the First Amendment is applied. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Phraseology; we’re going to take this a piece at a time. First clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” Seems simple enough, right? This is also the basis for the “Establishment Clause”. So lets get into this. The Amendment specifically states that Congress shall make no law… Congress is the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government, and thus an amendment to the Constitution was created by our Founders to limit the Federal Government’s ability to create laws that establish or recognize any religion as a religion preferred by the State. There is nothing in this Clause that expressly prohibits lower entities under the Government, or public entities not associated with the Federal Government from displaying icons of a religious nature publicly, and doesn’t protect the citizenry from the expression of religion in public by anyone, regardless of affiliation with the Government. Put simply, extrapolating from this first part of the Amendment that the Federal Government shall, in pursuit of compliance with the Amendment in whole, expunge all religious references from public display, or display by public representation at any level, is reaching too far for the apple. As a school is not capable of legislating, a school’s allowing for a child to reference God, Allah, Thor, or whatever other deity they choose to while reading a poem they, themselves, wrote is protected by the remainder of the Amendment. “…or (make no law…) prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” refers again to the limits on Congress concerning the creating of laws limiting freedom of religion. Since its been argued successfully, and to our detriment, that a publicly funded entity should be held to higher restraints concerning religious display, regardless of its legislative powers, one could also conversely argue that since the school, in this case, would violate the Establishment Clause by allowing for the poem to be read as written, that they would also violate the Freedom Exercise Clause by prohibiting the child’s poem to be read. This circular reference paradox is directly caused by the misapplication of judicial precedent regarding the Establishment Clause and its applicability to lower governmental bodies with no legislative powers. A school is not Congress, just as much as a city community center, lets say, in Santa Monica, CA, isn’t Congress. The Establishment Clause applies only to Congress. “…or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;” This is pretty self explanatory, but we still manage to get it wrong. There are those who feel that since words can hurt we must prevent this pain by preventing the unfettered use of language to express an individual. I’m not talking about libel or yelling fire in a crowded building. I’m talking about political correctness and the overbearing need to force people to not offend others. You’re no more protected by the First Amendment from being offended than the school is obligated to wipe religion out of that little girls poem. For some reason, though, we’ve created an industry around litigation centered on the protection of the feelings of people from the expression of others. This seems to only apply to religious types, or Conservatives, though. No one has, to my knowledge, suggested we bind Louie CK’s lips shut for calling Sarah Palin the vile things he has; at least, no one has and received face in the media for having done so. Unless you are exposed to what CK has said on the radio, in his act, and on TV, you’d not know, and therefore not be offended. The same can be said for any other type of expression, say, Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh, for instance. If what they say doesn’t sit well with you, change the channel, but don’t go crying to the Government to forcibly “change the channel” for the entire population. That is not your place, and the changing of the channel is not the Government’s place, as indicated by this Clause. “…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This seems pretty self explanatory as well. Congress shall not legislate away the right to peaceably assemble, protest publicly, or petition for the redress of grievances against the Government. Since this isn’t part of the topic at hand, I’m not going to delve too deep into this, except to say that while Occupy Wall Street started out as a peaceable protest movement, it quickly spun out of control, as most mob mentality movements will. Once the peace was disturbed by the mob the protest movement gave up its right to assemble. If a citizen was part of the mob and arrested for defecating on a police vehicle, that arrest is not without cause, and the police officer should not be reprimanded for carrying out their duties in the prevention of further carrying out of doodie. For a dissenting opinion on the Establishment Clause, and the history of its application to public discourse, to the detriment of society, please visit the Introduction to the Establishment Clause at Exploring Constitutional Law.
During times of political crisis such as these, I find myself reaching for two books that inspire me and help put things into perspective.
One of them is The Federalist Papers, a book which needs no introduction. Possibly the most important of our founding documents, it offers a glimpse into the original intent of the US Constitution as envisioned by those who actually wrote it. Hamilton, Madison and Jay published the these 85 essays anonymously in order to garner support for ratification of the Constitution. I was introduced to this book as a college freshman taking an Intro to Politics elective (taught, of course, by a self-described radical). It was pretty much the only book assigned to the class that made any sense to me. I ultimately switched my major from music to political science in large part because of this book. Perhaps more on this at a later date… For now, if you don’t already own The Federalist Papers, click here. Now.
My Number One go-to book, however, is Thomas Sowell’s classic, A Conflict of Visions. It distills all political debate down to two fundamental groups — those who have a ‘constrained’ view of human nature and society, and those with an ‘unconstrained’ view. It helps understand the dichotomatic worldviews held by conservatives and liberals, and why, as the author declares in the opening paragraph, “the same people line up on the opposite sides of different issues.”
Those with a ‘constrained’ vision believe that human nature is limited, that we are inherently selfish and operate out of self interest without regard to the well-being of others, and the societal good is derived through the unintended consequences of our actions. This is the cornerstone of Adam Smith’s economic philosophy as expounded in The Wealth of Nations, the founding document of free-market capitalism, and is at the root of libertarian-conservatism as it exists today. It holds that humans are flawed, that we are not naturally inclined to do anything other than what is in our self-interest, yet by doing so within the constraints of human nature we can (and do) benefit others by our actions.
The ‘unconstrained’ worldview is one in which man is inherently virtuous, that all of the unvirtuous things we do are a result of flaws in society, and that through actions that are designed to improve society we can approach perfection. Results and intentions are all that matter, and preferred outcomes can be accomplished by government policies with as long as they are enacted with good intentions. There is no limit to what we can achieve as long as our intentions are pure and we are willing to sacrifice our self-interests for the interests of all.
Sowell admits that no one really exists at either extreme; rather, people tend to occupy a place somewhere in between, possessing either a “more constrained” or “more unconstrianed” worldview. Yet A Conflict of Visions clearly illustrates the diametrically opposing worldviews held by conservatives and liberals, a brilliant analysis of the classic struggles between left and right, whether in the past, present or future. It puts all of our current policy debates into clear perspective.
This interview on YouTube was recorded just before the 2008 election. Sowell demonstrates how the two visions can be applied to concerns over judicial activism, the Iraq war, the economy, the election, Sarah Palin, and academic “intellectuals”. It’s just under 40 minutes long, but well worth the time.
“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.” The Founders of our country had it right. They put forth that certain truths were self-evident, and truly needed no explanation. It became the core of who we were as Americans, part of the glue that banded us together as a people, regardless of what countries or faiths we had originated from. This was the first in many of things that would define us as Americans. Abraham Lincoln argued that the Declaration of Independence was a statement of principles through which the Constitution should be interpreted. It was the looking glass through which the Law of the Land should be measured. “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” Here it was outlined that the Duties of government was to Protect and Secure those rights; that they were just because the People had gathered together and willingly surrendered small parts of their Liberties to be governed so as to protect those rights as a whole. Putting it clearly that government served the people and not people the government for the sake of protecting those unalienable Rights. So now we have he beginnings of a philosophy: 1) We have a right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That these are a few of the rights accorded to us by creation. All of those rights with roots in the concept of Liberty. 2) Man created governments to protect those Liberties. Notice that in the writings of the 18th century, during the Age of Reason, philosophers, emphasized on Man’s Liberties. It does not speak of the right to the State to provide for its citizens, but rather, to allow for man to provide for himself and to balance that power of government with as least damage to man’s Liberties as possible. Whereas it may be acceptable to wear the Boot of Socialism (medicare, medicaid, social security), you cannot wear it without the Sock of Liberty else we chafe ourselves and bleed. But more on that in Part II ~ Salvum fac Republic