Last week I made a pilgrimage to the closest Barnes & Noble bookstore to my home to restock on reading material. While there I found a copy of Thoreau’s Discourse on Civil Disobedience on a discounted books table for $9.95. Although I’ve yet to begin reading it, I bought it primarily because of one passage from it that intrigued me, “That government is best which governs least … the best government is one which does not govern at all.”
I know that probably runs contrary to the beliefs of most Americans, yet it is how I feel about government; the less it does the better for me and my liberty. Those brave men who stood up against tyranny, who we just celebrated yesterday, wrote often about liberty; yet if you were to scour their writings you would be hard pressed to find any mention of their having wanted to establish a government that acted as babysitter, or provider for the people of this country.
It is my honest belief that over 90% of the people in this country have never taken a single moment to ponder the purpose for which government exists, even though it is clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (My emphasis)
Therefore, if government is not doing that, securing our rights, then it is NOT doing the job it was established to do and is serving another purpose altogether. People, putting aside their overall ignorance over what the Constitution says, seem to think that the Constitution can be, and should be, ignored if what the government does is beneficial to the people, or the country.
I could provide more, but for the sake of brevity allow me to provide two quotes from Supreme Court decisions which show the fallacy of that belief.
The first comes from the case of Ex parte Milligan, handed down shortly after the end of the Civil War, and states, “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it, which are necessary to preserve its existence; as has been happily proved by the result of the great effort to throw off its just authority.”
The second was handed down in the 1934 case of Home Building & Loan Assn. v. Blairsdell, and reads, “Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the federal government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency.”
I wonder, how would the American people react if a sitting president gave a press conference in which he stated, “My fellow Americans, it is my firm belief that we, as your government, have done everything the Constitution allows us to do, and possibly even some things which it does not. Therefore, we will be passing no more laws for the duration of my administration.”
I know that such a speech will never happen, but imagine if it did. Imagine the outrage of the voters who put those people into office to DO THINGS for them. Me, on the other hand, I’d probably be arrested; for I’d climb up on my roof and dance a naked jig, laughing like a madman and screaming YES, FINALLY!
What it all boils down to is a difference in how you and I view the purpose for which government exists. Most people view the role of government as a benevolent caregiver and provider for all their needs; such as benefits, social justice programs, and things that allow them to go to bed at night with a feeling that they are safe and secure.
On the flip side I feel the purpose of government is to leave me alone; stay out of my paycheck and my life, and just ensure that my rights and my property remain secure from those who would deprive me of either. Whatever laws the government enacts should further those purposes, not restrict them. I alone am responsible for my success or failure in life; I alone am responsible for providing security to myself, my family, and my belongings. I believe that when government seeks to assume that role for itself, and in so doing enact laws which take away my right to do those things for myself, then that government is no longer one which I can consent to.
I know most people give it very little thought; the real reason for which government is supposed to exist, but it is constantly on my mind. I see how big and oppressive the government we live under has become and I shake my head in wonder at how difficult that is to see for others. That is why I don’t vote; not because I oppose the platform of one party or the other, but because I oppose government growing any stronger, or continuing on in its current form.
To me, voting is like being given the choice of executioners; either a man with a rifle, a man working the gallows, or some guy standing there with his hands on the lever of a guillotine. Does it matter which choice I make when the end result is the same? That’s how I see voting, no matter who I vote for it will only end up resulting in the further loss of my income or my rights.
Nobody in the years that I’ve been paying attention to politics, aside from possibly Ron Paul, ever has said anything about actually downsizing our government; restricting it to the few specific powers mentioned in the Constitution. Yet that hasn’t stopped millions of voters from casting their votes for whichever candidate has the most enticing sounding campaign promises. Yet as long as they have a job, a roof over their heads, three meals a day, and a constant stream of entertainment, most voters are as happy as a bunch of pigs wallowing in a mud puddle. The only concern most voters have is that the coercive power of government is in the hands of the person they voted; meaning either a Republican or a Democrat. The chains of the Constitution which were supposed to bind government to certain specific functions are of little to no concern for most people.
In 1788 James Madison wrote, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
I would truly like for you to ponder that, even if it means putting this commentary down for awhile and returning to it after you’ve given that quote some thought. If you think about it, that sounds somewhat similar to the quote by Thoreau that I began this article with. Why would Madison say that if men were angels no government would be necessary if it weren’t for the fact that government should exist to protect the individual from the actions of another individual, or the actions of a society against the rights and property of an individual.
If men were angelic in nature they would respect the lives, liberty and property of their fellow human beings; but since they aren’t angelic in nature there is the need for a force which can ensure that the rights and property of all men are secure – that is the role of government that Jefferson spoke of in the Declaration of Independence.
One of the flaws of this system is that we elect people from the great mass of society to act as our representatives. As we are weak and sinful people we cannot help but elect weak and sinful people to represent us. If we as individuals cannot respect the lives, liberty and property of others, how are we to expect others whom we elect to do so; especially when the draw of power is so enticing for those who crave it over others?
Noah Webster, founder of the American dictionary, once wrote, “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, ‘just men who will rule in the fear of God.’ The preservation of [our] government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded. If [our] government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine Commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the Laws.”
Now I know that no religious test shall be required when choosing whom to vote for, nonetheless, a moral and virtuous people will only elect those who, in turn, are moral and virtuous. On the other hand, an immoral people, lacking virtue, will elect people just like them; people who will use their delegated power to benefit their friends and constituents, at the cost of subjugation and slavery of those whose beliefs they oppose.
Now if we return to Madison’s quote from Federalist 51 for a moment, we’ll recall that he also said, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” So, if we were angels we would have no need for any kind of government, as we would respect the lives, liberty and property of our fellow human beings. But then, if angels were to govern man there would be no need for the people to worry about restraining or controlling the extent to which government exercised its authority over the governed, as they would also respect the lives, liberty and property of all they governed.
Since we are not angels, and neither are those we elect, then there must be some form of external control over how much power our government is allowed to exercise. We are taught that the Constitution provides that power, that it provides checks and balances which restrict each branch from overstepping their delegated authority. We are told that the Constitution limits the power of each branch to certain specific functions.
But who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that those we elect limit their actions to the few powers delegated to them if it is not we the people? And boy have we done a bang up job of doing that. (And in case you didn’t recognize it, that was sarcasm.)
Where in the Constitution does it provide for we the people to punish those who abuse or overstep their delegated authority? I’ll wait while you research that…
Now I’m not talking about voting them out of office, for that IS NOT punishment. I’m also not talking about impeachment, for if they were honest and virtuous they would be impeaching each other right and left already. What I’m asking is, where is our power to arrest, try, and convict those who violate the Constitution; and if needs be, impose fines, jail sentences, and even death if the crime is worthy of it?
Where; which Article and which clause contains our ability to do that? Again, I’ll wait while you go look…
Or, I can save you the time and trouble by answering for you. It isn’t there, the Constitution gives us absolutely no authority to punish those who are supposed to be representing us; those who take a sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution.
YET THEY HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO ENACT LAWS WHICH, IF VIOLATED BY THE PEOPLE, CAN RESULT IN FINES, JAIL SENTENCES, AND EVEN DEATH IF THE CRIME IS WORTHY OF IT.
Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to you? Doesn’t that sound like they have become our masters, not our servants? Doesn’t that sound like, oh, here it comes….TYRANNY to you? The holiday we just got done celebrated was to honor those who risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to break the shackles which bound them to a tyrannical government; a government that was FAR LESS tyrannical and oppressive than the one most voters willingly consent to today.
It makes me want to go into hiding and never see another human face; that’s how angry I get over this.
In his pamphlet Common Sense, (which there seems to be a lack of in America today), Thomas Paine wrote, “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”
We provide government with all it needs to subjugate and oppress us by giving our consent to its existence; by voting and paying the taxes which are the lifeblood that keeps it going. If we, as a united people, were to revoke our consent and stop voting, while at the same time, cut off the flow of money into government, it would wither and die like a flower that goes without water.
Of course it would resist, it would seek to impose its authority upon us; but what’s it going to do if we remain steadfast and determined, kill or arrest us all? Who would it govern; who would pay the taxes it needs to stay alive?
King George III sent his armies into the Colonies to maintain his control over them, yet those brave men we honored yesterday remained steadfast and determined to obtain freedom, or die in the effort.
Abraham Lincoln did the same when the Southern States seceded from the Union. Although freedom lost that fight, those who fought for the Confederacy were no less determined than were those who fought for America’s independence in 1776.
If you recall Jefferson’s statement regarding the purpose for which governments should exist, you may be interested to know what he had to say about what we should do when government no longer serves its intended purpose, “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Jefferson doesn’t say that it was an option, he said it was our DUTY to throw off such government. That does not mean voting for a better caliber of candidates, it means tear the whole system to the ground and rebuild with one that can better secure the ends for which it was established.
Liberty can only exist when it is cherished above all things; even life itself. After all, Patrick Henry did not say, “Give me liberty or I’ll go sit in the corner and pout”, he said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” You can vote as many times as you want, for whomever you want, but it isn’t going to change the nature of the beast you are voting these people into. Government has become our enemy; it sucks the lifeblood out of our lives, our liberty, and our property through its laws and burdensome taxes, and it is not going to change until enough people rise up and tell their Uncle Sam that it can go to hell; and be willing to speed him along on his trip.