Democracy Of The People, By The Politicians, For Whom Again?
Choose Your Weapon: Representative Democracy Or Popular Democracy
Rather than ask the usual question about which political system is better, allow me to ask which is worse: representative Democracy or popular Democracy? On the one hand, you have political officials who enjoy astoundingly high re-election rates (percentages in the high 90’s) and who aren’t very accountable to the citizenry; instead, they stroll along unprincipled political paths with various special interests, all striving to control aspects of the economy, both public and private. On the other hand, you have popular ballot measures, “propositions,” such as in California, in which registered voters can cast their opinions in favor, or not, of an assortment of public works issues and governmentally regulated personal freedoms. Interestingly, voters sometimes make more sensible decisions than their representatives. Sometimes they even circumvent seemingly endless bureaucracy. So much for the theory that the unrestrained masses are mostly blinded by their passions. However, regardless of which system you choose, your individual rights will tend to be disregarded, in favor of collectivism and coercion.
Consider the nature of voting in general. Imagine if, every year, a company gave you a list of issues and people that you knew nothing about and really had no direct interest in (at least before they got you involved), and then they asked you to cast your vote in favor or against each issue and person. Now imagine that this company was a legalized monopoly in its area of business and that it took your money rather than asked for it (hence getting you involved) and paid hardly any attention to its reputation and efficiency. Suddenly, you realize that this is the state of affairs today. Madness? Perhaps. But definitely the major snafu of politics.
In order to delve into America’s system of representative Democracy, a constitutional Republic, let’s have a “conversation” with one of the founding fathers of American politics, Thomas Paine. Back in his day, Thomas Paine’s pamphlets of eloquent prose such as Common Sense motivated many people in the colonies to proceed to revolution against rule by the British crown. Paine was an outspoken advocate of liberty and, unlike most other Founders, he was also a staunch abolitionist, acknowledging publicly that slavery was terribly wrong. In addition, Paine was a critic of fundamentalist religion. Because religiosity and strict adherence to scripture were pretty popular back then, most people didn’t take kindly to his writings on the subject of religious dogma and blind faith. He was pejoratively declared an atheist (though he was actually a deist) and unfortunately became somewhat of an intellectual outcast after the revolution.
Nonetheless, Thomas Paine has been considered by many historians to be one of the most important influences on political thought in early America, during the rise of the burgeoning Republic. The laity readily embraced the practicality and wisdom of his writings.
So, in the spirit of inquiry into the formation of a new nation, let’s explore the philosophical side of Democracy and government from Paine’s perspective—and ask some important questions. What follows is an excerpt from Common Sensetitled “Of the origin and design of government in general, with concise remarks on the English Constitution.”
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
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. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
Certainly, most of us would agree that it’s best to achieve the greatest benefit to our security with the least expense. Getting more for our dollar from government seems like a very good thing. But maybe after reading this, the following questions popped into your mind: If the “necessary evil” of government arises from people’s wickedness and the need to somehow restrain our vices, how can the individuals in government be immune from the same lack of clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed conscience? Further, how can we be forced to surrender part of our property in order to ensure its safety from thieves? Is such evil actually necessary? Do we indeed furnish the means by which we suffer—needlessly?
Let’s proceed with some more of Paine’s thoughts, keeping these questions in mind. After he explained why people need each other in order to survive and prosper, which is definitely true, Thomas wrote:
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supercede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.
Some convenient tree will afford them a State House, under the branches of which the whole Colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man by natural right will have a seat.
But as the Colony encreases, the public concerns will encrease likewise, and the distance at which the members may be separated, will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitations near, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present. If the colony continue encreasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part sending its proper number: and that the ELECTED might never form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often: because as the ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this, (not on the unmeaning name of king,) depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED.
Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. Freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and reason will say, ‘tis right.
So, this is the general thought process about why we need representative government. Elected officials are to mimic our interests once the population increases beyond a reasonable limit (thus making meetings of everyone impossible). In addition, as Paine put it, the defect of moral virtue from people’s remissness of duty and attachment to others supposedly requires a representative political system to secure everyone’s interests and safety. And in order for laws to remain tied to the concerns of the people, elections should be held as frequently as possible.
All of this begins to expose the main problem inherent in such a system—namely, that those you elect are unlikely to make the same choices as yourself. And, if each individual’s choice is lacking in virtue (however that’s defined) how do you expect representatives to be more virtuous, given how removed they are from your decisions in daily life?
Notice that Paine has relied on two basic arguments for representative government, one practical, one moral. Inquiring minds do want to know a few things when it comes to the idea of being “managed” by others. Practically speaking, will elected officials and those they appoint have interests that coincide with the people in the community? It’s nice to think that they will, but we can cite an avalanche of evidence to the contrary. Typically, the method of operation for politicians is this: Make promises; get elected; break promises and hope enough time has elapsed between the campaign and the term in office that nobody notices. In this digital age with immediate availability of new information, that’s a hard one to pull off without a hitch. Usually a sizable amount of voter and non-voter apathy and resignation is needed.
Who exactly determines what’s in the “public interest” anyway? Will the elected officials and those they appoint have the same concerns at stake as we ourselves do? While not likely, it depends mostly on how vocal and influential representatives’ constituencies are. Sooner or later, though, as history has revealed, the game and the big prizes go to the lobbyists and those with the most political pull. The average citizen has little influence. You’re usually not done any favors, and your vote is often of little or no value (regardless of whether there’s an electoral college).
Since “the public” is each and every individual in a particular area, how is it possible for one person or even a group of people to represent them? In other words how can one person make choices for a group of people concerning their own personal interests? Obviously, managers of companies and even heads of households do this frequently, but there has to be some degree of agreement or at least consent about delegating one’s choices to others. Since the smallest minority in the world is the individual (as Ayn Rand keenly noted), what happens when the majority or plurality of voters’ opinions run counter to your opinions? Moreover, what’s the nature of the decisions being made in the name of everyone’s interests? Even in the earliest meetings of townsfolk who hadn’t yet elected representatives, surely there was not unanimity in deciding various issues. On matters big and small, there were surely disagreements, perhaps heated ones at that.
When people are left to make decisions for their entire community, public policy becomes a veritable piñata filled with favors and tax dollars that are sweeter than candy. And like the Latin American game, the participants are blinded—in this case by irrational interests. Deciding on public policy destroys awareness of its consequences on other individuals who comprise the public. Voters’ secret ballots and representatives’ open (or closed) door meetings obscure understanding of the game being played: Ultimately, those who assume the right to have final say in these matters do not own the property in question.
This leads us to the moral part of Paine’s formulation of government. What duty and attachment do people actually have to each other that begins to lapse over time and distance? When and why do they stop being fair to each other? What moral defects prevent them from running their own affairs in the midst of others? Again, how can those in government, specifically the individually elected representatives and their appointees hope to remedy any moral defects in people? How can government—consisting of persons selected from the very same populace—actually supply the defect of moral virtue? It would be ironic for Paine to expect us to accept the virtues of government (of, by, and for the people) on faith.
Paine implies that, once in larger populations, people gradually tend to become less responsible or less virtuous to each other. Well, it’s certainly the case that strangers in cities tend to be more impersonal, because it’s just not possible to say “Hi” to everyone you walk past. But are they less responsible and less virtuous than people in smaller communities? That depends mainly on their individual values, particularly their beliefs about how others should be treated, be they friends, relatives, business associates, etc. Having lived in large cities such as San Diego, Dallas, and Minneapolis, as well as in tiny towns such as Challis, Idaho, I’d say that Paine was indeed mistaken. Most travelers, businesspersons, and students would say the same thing. Americans in general are kind to each other.
Despite contrary “evidence” from soap operas and horror films, most people in America mean well, regardless of the population density. Because cities are primarily about commerce—and commerce involves all kinds of cooperation, collaboration, and interdependence, that is, voluntary trading of values—being virtuous and responsible to others is the key social lubricant that prevents society from grinding to a halt (and the ensuing mayhem).
It’s not governmental officials, then, who can prevent vice and maintain people’s virtue and responsibility. That’s one of the more ridiculous notions about government, and about people’s behavior. People relate to each other according to their moral codes, whether formulated implicitly or explicitly, not because others are assigned to look over their shoulders and make them behave.
If anything, the State drastically worsens people’s relationships and interactions. For example, all the real-life blood baths throughout the world stem more from existing political corruption and despotism, which act as catalysts for strife, than they do from the degree of immorality and lack of enlightenment in the general populace (people’s contradictory philosophical premises).
When economic conditions start to worsen, people’s interpersonal ethics get put more to the test. Most people in America would never think of killing their fellow countrymen to gain any values. They would never approve of stealing sustenance from a mother in need, for instance. These things happen more in areas of strong States and impoverished economies or in tribal societies with barbarous leaders and gang rule. Americans tend to look for reasonable solutions to crises, so that a better environment can be achieved. We constantly solve problems, both simple and complex, willingly and voluntarily. Given similar economic conditions, most people throughout the world do too. This is clearly a testament to the human drive to respect each other, to minimize conflict, to prevent the creation of chaotic conditions.
Given these sociological and psychological dynamics, some other important questions must be asked. When members of a society can’t gather in one place, what exactly do representatives do for them in terms of their security and the needs of their daily lives? What exactly are representatives in government providing us? Since we can clearly make choices and think for ourselves, do we actually need other people to do these mental tasks for us?
It’s been said that Democracy basically consists of two wolves and a sheep deciding on what to have for dinner. It’s also been said (by George Bernard Shaw, I believe) that those in government who rob Peter to pay Paul, can always depend on the support of Paul.
Now we’re getting to the real essence of Democracy, whether representative or popular. When people get together politically, or get their representatives together, to decide on “public” issues, those who disagree aren’t allowed to opt out. They are forced to participate. Ultimately, the majority or plurality rules, and the powerful and influential foster a “might makes right” mentality. The issues on the voting table concern other people’s property or unclaimed property (public property) and the decision makers are paid with tax dollars rather than with profits. This is definitely not virtuous, nor is it responsible.
To infringe on another’s property or to physically harm or threaten another person is the worst political vice imaginable. While we’ll explore more of the reasons later, this is basically how individual rights are violated—through the initiation of force, which disables our ability to make choices and to act on them. Rights denote freedom of action, the liberty to respectfully do as we please in a social context. We possess rights to any actions that don’t infringe on, that is, initiate force against, others and their property. We make decisions to further our lives and well-being, and others do too.
To give up one’s direct say in matters of the community may be problematic in its own right. But to enable a representative group of people to make decisions that infringe on people’s rights is an egregious injustice. The vices and immorality that Paine wrote of are outgrowths of the very system he and the other Founders promoted. Every election in a governmental system reflects a society in which some people, either mistakenly or deliberately, vote other people’s rights away—rights to choices, actions, and ownership.
Nearly everyone who votes in a Democracy votes to diminish the liberties that a free market can bestow on them. Only the so-called public sector grants individuals this ability. During elections, any of us “law-abiding citizens” can go down and cast our ballots for anyone running for office, or we can choose a more worthy write-in candidate, such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, or Bugs Bunny. Unlike these innocuous cartoon characters, elected representatives take office, appoint like-minded others, and then forward a great range of opinions that become codified in law and enforced by people willing and able to use lethal force—if threats of fines, confiscations, arrest, and imprisonment don’t cause adequate conformity.
Representative government obviously overlooks the fact that people should be free to contract or not to contract with whomever they please. They should be free to make their own choices, as long as those choices don’t interfere with the rights and property of others.
So, our entire political system rests on a flawed understanding of how people in large groups should behave toward each other. Whether they’re members of a small group or large group, city or state, people in politics don’t mind initiating force, through either physical means or fraud, which involves contracting or paying for something not agreed upon, that is, without informed consent.
What some intend Democracy to do—mainly to facilitate the communication and implementation of human desires for safety and security in a society—will thus never come to fruition. Democracy contains the seeds of its own destruction, primarily because it allows people to legally diminish each person’s freedoms. The procedures of Democracy are designed to ignore their own rights-violations, of course. Never will these procedures order our representatives and the various officials who do their bidding, as well as the people who voted them into office, to cease and desist. Only a new understanding of rights and politics in the populace can accomplish that.
Now, how has America evolved, or devolved, from the time of Paine? A nice way of putting it might be that American government theoretically consists of three well-intentioned branches sprouting from one practically rotten tree.
As noted, those who don’t vote in a Democracy are subjected to the same treatment as those who do. And those who voted for the representative or policy that didn’t win are subjected to the same treatment as the victors. In order for anyone to contend that such a system represents justice and equal rights of individuals, he or she must twist logic beyond a pretzel into something completely unrecognizable.
Political doublespeak aids and abets such flawed reasoning: “The end justifies the means.” “It’s for the greater good of the people.” “The general welfare must be considered.” “The interest of the populace is at stake.” “Equal opportunity for everyone.” “A fair and level playing field must be created in this country, and in the world’s markets.” “We all must make sacrifices for the good of the community.” “Ask what you can do for your government” (while simultaneously asking what your government can do for you). “Being a good citizen means obeying the law.” “It’s your civic duty, after all.” “Giving back to your community is something every respectable citizen and business does.”
All such phrases expose the kind of con game being played on members of a productive society. True rights concerning individuals’ ability to make choices and act on them must be sacrificed to “rights” given to us by government, which means the ability to throttle people’s choices and actions. Then, everyone can get a portion of the goodies from the community chest of expropriated goods. Welcome to the home of the redistribution scheme, a system of politics that forcibly extracts wealth from people in order to give less of it back in a manner different than how it was originally constituted.
I wonder what Thomas Paine would say about today’s multi-trillion dollar government. For example, are the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on “national defense” actually making us more safe and secure? Think about the fact that a fewpistols in the hands of the airlines’ pilots of the 9/11 planes would’ve likely prevented the ensuing disasters. The government did not allow such simple protective measures, because it “owns” the airports and is thus in charge of airlines’ security via the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) in concert with the diktats of the Department of Homeland Security. A pointed question should be asked here: Which poses a greater danger to our liberties—the threat of the State or the threat of terrorism? Being subjected to the arbitrary edicts of TSA officials, for example, undoubtedly reflects the fascist nature of the State; its members want to monitor and control your freedom to travel in order to keep you secure. But should the loss of your freedoms be the price you pay for your supposed safety? Given that Defense Department officials can’t even secure their own headquarters, The Pentagon, from direct attack, might it be a bit absurd to believe that they can safeguard us, the whole of the American public? Furthermore, given that a study of the history of terrorism shows that political grievances typically stem from foreign occupation and meddling, maybe the best way to fight terrorism is to stop funding a huge government that seeks to maintain and expand its influence in foreign affairs, as well as subjugate people in all manners domestically.
As mentioned, a fairly good political rule of thumb holds that as long as the State generally permits free speech, free press, and trial by jury, there’s still hope—hope of turning things around, before the place turns into a dictatorial police State, essentially a regime of fear and unspeakable cruelty (not to mention martial law). Free speech and free press obviously enable people to spread ideas and persuade others of a better way of life, as well as to criticize threats to and infringements on their liberties. Trial by jury is one of the final legal checks on statist tyranny. The Founders knew well that an innocent person stands a better chance of being tried fairly by a panel of his or her peers than by a representative of the State wielding absolute power. Absolute power reveals itself in every trial in which the presiding judge admonishes jurors to focus strictly on the facts of the case, rather than inform them of their right to judge the morality of the law in relation to the facts presented. Jury nullification of the law is something that undermines the State’s power, of course, which explains why judges act as if it doesn’t exist.
When the grand ideal of Democracy has gone terribly wrong, as all illogical ideas must, the last hope for liberty must remain with the people. Although we can vote bad people out of office, and we can try to repeal bad laws, these basic options in a Democracy don’t address the main problem: A bad system will continue to generate offices for bad people as well as bad laws. Only by questioning the nature of the entire system of government—the nature of statism itself—can we begin to free ourselves from injustice and constant threats of more tyranny.
Most of us were taught in grade school to say, in zombie-like fashion, “I Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America....” One’s mind naturally attempts to finish the recitation, so ingrained are childhood memories. However, it really should be renamed the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Great Abstraction.” The flag, the Republic, and the State are merely conceptual symbols that ought not obtain our allegiance unless we agree with their representatives’ practices. I submit that children who are told to say the Pledge don’t even know the meaning of some of its words, and they certainly don’t understand what allegiance actually entails.
A study of the history of the United States reveals many things to be proud of and many things to scorn. This is because “one nation” consists of multitudes of people with multitudes of beliefs and behaviors, which are impossible to combine into something that equals our individual respect, let alone allegiance. But the Pledge is part of the collectivistic game that seeks to keep us ignorant and incapable of making important ethical distinctions, the main distinction being a voluntary America versus America’s coercive government. So, it’s little wonder that children are made to repeat empty phrases such as “with liberty and justice for all.”
This takes us back to Thomas Paine’s thoughts on the subject of representation. It would be difficult to get critically minded individuals to pledge allegiance to particular persons in their community if those persons did disrespectful or ridiculous things—especially if those persons violated the rights of individuals in their community.
Once a community reaches the size of a nation, the primary way to get people to pledge allegiance to particular representatives (that they likely will never meet) is to first have them, as children especially, pledge allegiance to a concept of goodness that those representatives are purported to reflect. Baseball, Old Glory, and our Constitutional Republic! In addition, just in case you don’t buy into this confusion of terms, the people must also be convinced that it’s necessary to general goodness that they be required to pay for the services devised and provided by the representatives. That way, no matter how much you disagree with the vote totals, as well as the ensuing policies and behaviors of the elected and appointed, you have no way of opting out of the system. It’s all for the common good, you see.
Have you ever wondered why incumbents are typically the ones who win elections? In an irreverent look at political life, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart described in their book America: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction that elections are when America decides to “change the sheets.” Apparently, either the sheets aren’t that dirty come election year, or it’s too expensive to wash them. Expensive indeed. The enormous costs of effectively campaigning against incumbents tend to deter those not hardened by political gamesmanship and lacking sufficient funds. Incumbents have the advantage of using their political positions to do two jobs at once—“serve the people” and fund-raise/gain support for their next election.
These two jobs raise two very significant questions, questions that must be asked and answered by respectable people: How do politicians serve the people, and how do they gain supporters? It turns out that both jobs involve the same thing that corrupts politics to the core: They make use of coercive power in order to fulfill their own desires as well as the desires of various people in the citizenry.
Remember that the nature of a Democracy involves making decisions about what to do with other people’s property or “government property,” or unclaimed domain. Force is used with laws and regulations that ultimately translate into jail cells for the disobedient and nonconforming, and bullets for the resistant. Taxation is the means of funding this operation. Taxation is the involuntary transfer of people’s wealth to government.
Now, aside from the personal gains sought by those in government, such as larger salaries, more entrenched positions, various perks, and bigger pensions, how do you suppose officials choose which political agendas to champion? After all, if everyone got a say in politics, its ludicrous nature would definitely be exposed. The State could never become big enough to provide for all the whims of every person. Such a spectacle would resemble an insatiable cannibal who, after eating everyone else, must then turn his knife and fork upon himself.
Since the dissenters and losers take a back seat in politics, which are typically the majority of the people, the driving is left to a vocal and influential minority. Corporate heads, unions of all stripes, political action committees, and so on, are the driving forces of political agendas. As long as the costs are distributed to those who are taxed throughout the entire country, state, county, city, or town, then influential minorities can obtain their desired concentration of goodies. It’s all for the common good, you see.
There’s a long, sordid history of people running to government to receive favors—much more than people running to government to prevent favors done for them. These favors are always administered at the expense of the people in society who seek no such favors, but are taxed anyway. Of course, from a lobbyist’s point of view, what sense would it make for them to pay governmental officials in order to have the State give their money back, minus extensive administrative costs of course? That would definitely be a losing deal. So, the key is to get money from people who aren’t going to benefit. It’s much easier to get them to accept such a deal when they’re trained to be good allegiance-pledging, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens.
Lest you start imagining that this is a grand conspiracy by the rich and powerful elites against the downtrodden, the people are far from dumb. Their own collectivistic abstractions foster conformity as well as the subtle thought of being able to get something for nothing, at the expense of others. It doesn’t take much to connect the political dots here. Eventually, many more groups of people realize that they had better “get while the gettin’s good,” and play the game of politics with their politically minded peers. Pressure group warfare naturally ensues. The press reports. You decide.
Take, for example, the situation of making weapons for the military. Since government is essentially a costly, inefficient, bloated bureaucracy, it’s not very competent at building things. It’s much more effective at destroying things with privately constructed weaponry. The “military-industrial complex” that President Eisenhower admonished Americans about is the quintessential case study in feeding at the collective trough of tax money. No one does it better, although groups such as the teachers’ unions (NEA and AFT) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) are definitely no slouches (please excuse the thousands of others I’ve left out).
Military contractors, essentially corporations that make weapons and equipment for governments (few, if any, questions asked), engage in what’s known as political strategizing of their resources. Arguably the best way to feed at the collective trough is to get as many people as possible to have vested financial interests in maintaining contracts with the government. So, military contractors try to infiltrate all the various states in order to influence the largest number of vocal constituents in the voting public. More people working for the government, either directly or indirectly, increases the chances that elected representatives will increase or continue their funding. The potential loss of jobs gives politicians major talking points, the bread and butter of their stump speeches. If the representatives don’t do the public’s bidding (by public, I mean influential lobbying groups), they face the potential of being tossed out of office. Perish the thought!
In this sense, Paine was partially right: Elected representatives do pay attention to the concerns of some in their community. But they do so for reasons that have little or nothing to do with justice, virtue, and respect for property rights. Essentially, State officials legislate, execute, and adjudicate laws for the wrong reasons, and the result is that our lives, liberties, property, and pursuit of happiness are thereby greatly diminished.
Of course, many of us tend to overlook these facts, while hoping that the nextpoliticians (and the judges and bureaucrats they appoint) will do our bidding this time. But no matter what you believe government is going to provide you—whether safety or security-related—it does so at a much higher price than any competitive company in the marketplace. And government programs and policies usually achieve the opposite of their goals. This is primarily because government operates outside the free market. Government essentially has nothing to offer, so long as it’s funded involuntarily and uses force against rights-respecting people. Simply put, the end doesn’t justify the rights-violating means. The negative economic consequences of government merely reflect this truism.
In our daily lives, trying to make ends meet and pursuing our happiness, distractions and distance can take their toll on realizing the rottenness of government. The close communities Paine envisioned that would determine social issues democratically are rarely the case. Even where present, we still face the inherent injustice of managing other people’s property, as well as “government property,” for the so-called common good. Voting procedures greatly distract us from honoring the essential principles of ownership and voluntary exchange.
Furthermore, evidence and logical inspection refute the widespread belief that, since humans are not “angels,” then government (that is, fellow non-angels selected from society) should be relied on to foster virtue and punish vice. It turns out that anygovernment, by its coercive nature, becomes much worse than the people who voted (or didn’t vote) for it. Again, distractions and distance take their toll on our need to confront those who pretend to speak in our names.
Some might say that these criticisms leveled against Democracy don’t pertain to their ideal—a constitutional Republic. Is such a Republic different from a representative Democracy? In form, somewhat; it depends mostly on the nature of its constitution. In terms of consequences, however, not really. The framers of the U.S. Constitution were quite aware of what could happen when legal restraints are not placed on governmental powers: A nation becomes one of unjust men and not laws.
Of course, legal restraints can take a variety of forms and need not be codified on pieces of paper. The United Kingdom, for example, has managed its political affairs for quite some time without a written constitution. Common law precedents, statutes, and parliamentary procedures take its place. Presently, in terms of people’s lack of liberties, Britain isn’t a whole lot different than America. The basic principles of governmental injustice remain; only the details vary.
Nevertheless, what if the framers of the U.S. Constitution knew that it would serve only as a template for an ideal Republic? The rest would be up to the people to maintain it, right? The words of Benjamin Franklin come to mind here. In 1787, when asked what they had wrought from the Constitutional Convention, a Republic or a Monarchy, Franklin was quoted as saying “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Perhaps the Framers’ constitutional codification of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances” was the absolute best anybody could (or can) come up with, in order to keep a representative form of government intact. Clearly, the Framers wanted to ensure that the fruits of their labor weren’t going to form another tyranny, like that of King George III.
At this point, we can readily demonstrate that America didn’t heed Franklin’s words. America has been unable to keep its Republic within the confines of the Constitutional limits intended by the Framers. A case can even be made that, given that the Federalists won the debate with the Anti-Federalists over the basic construction of the Republic, the whole enterprise was doomed from the start. The Anti-Federalists, such as George Mason and Patrick Henry, were indeed correct in forecasting the eventual rise of a powerful central government, leaving the several states to tag along on its monetary and regulatory coattails—and the people to resign themselves to a new form of oppression and servitude.
Of course, even if the Anti-Federalists had succeeded in their arguments against a strong federal government, the governments of the several states (under, say, slightly modified Articles of Confederation) most likely wouldn’t have prevented the actual enslavement of a sizable percentage of the American population and the terrible conditions they endured for many decades. The deaths of over 600,000 people in the Civil War, however, likely could have been avoided. Solid evidence shows that Lincoln and his followers were much more concerned about preventing secession and its detrimental impact on their despotic policies of central government (for instance, the high tariffs on imported goods bought by southerners) than they were about ending slavery.
So let’s perform a thought experiment. Let’s imagine what America would be like if we forced government back into its Constitutional cage, as intended by the Framers, in the spirit of the Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Obviously, from the Constitution’s inception there were some major flaws that virtually everyone today would find intolerable. The allowance of slavery was one of them; it was allowed formally under the Constitution for nearly a hundred years (until the 13th and 14th Amendments). Disenfranchisement and second-class citizenship for everyone besides white males was another flaw; amazingly, it took a Constitutional Amendment (the 19th) in 1920 to grant women the right to vote in all the states—non-white men were granted it in 1870 (with the 15th). And few realize that the income tax was not tacked on as a Constitutional Amendment (the 16th) until 1913; somehow the Republic got along fine without it for nearly a century and a half.
Over time the meaning of the Constitution and the legislation arising from it have been interpreted differently by the various courts, the Supreme Court being the most famous (or infamous) interpreter. Not surprisingly, the original intent of the Framers was oftentimes lost, like dried leaves in gusts of hot wind.
James Madison, though a Federalist, forwarded a Bill of Rights to Congress pursuant to the Constitution’s ratification. He realized that acceptance of the Constitution by the majority of people throughout the states hinged on whether it included the safeguard of a Bill of Rights. Indeed, without the first ten Amendments, America may have abandoned more quickly its idea of limited government.
Nonetheless, even if we were to set aside the above-mentioned nearly universally intolerable aspects, some of which were dealt with by later Amendments, what sort of government does a Constitutionally limited one offer us?
As mentioned, the Bill of Rights with the help of the citizenry has arguably kept our country from becoming some sort of vile dictatorship. The first things that dictators get rid of are the following: free speech; free press; rights of assembly and petitioning the government; gun ownership; prohibitions on quartering of troops in the populace; warrant-required searches and seizures; just due process; evidence-based convictions; jury trials; and, fair treatment of those found guilty (not to mention those awaiting trial). This thumbnail sketch of the first eight Amendments reflects the Framers’ understanding of totalitarian power.
Totalitarian regimes have no patience for anything that defies their authority or that’s subversive to their control. This reminds me of a chilling documentary about the Soviet Union under the heinous Joseph Stalin. He was known to comment that all political problems arise from men—so, “No man, no problem.” People who disagree with the supreme leader and his accomplices are not to be tolerated and therefore must be erased. Stalin and his henchmen erased them by the tens of millions.
Fortunately for us, the Framers also noted that even if the Constitution could prevent or forestall outright totalitarianism, the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) needed to be further restrained from consolidating their powers. Hence, the ninth and tenth Amendments:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Unfortunately for us, these two Amendments have been heeded little by those in power. As government grows, the other rights retained by the people are gradually ignored and nullified. And even where the powers of the several states increase, the power of the people to enforce their rights in relation to them seems to diminish. We’ve already noted that Democracy is an ill-conceived way to ensure our rights. The vagueness of the ninth and tenth Amendments reflects this. How are the rights of the individual supposed to be upheld against a government that’s funded through coercive measures and that uses coercive measures enacted by a majority or plurality to regulate other people’s property?
So, where exactly does this leave us? What are we to make of the Constitution—before a couple hundred years of executive practices, legislation, and adjudication were piled on top of it? Most of the Constitution is dedicated to outlining the managerial and procedural aspects of a representative government. Though the text may strike many practical Americans as mind-numbing legal babble, its brevity is a very nice walk in the park compared to, for instance, the Federal Register, in which tens of thousands of new pages are generated each year.
The Constitution basically contains such things as the following: the government’s composition, terms of office, election (and electoral college) voting details; the legislative authorities of the bicameral Congress (House and Senate) as well as the President; the nature of the Executive Branch, which outlines the President as Commander in chief, his duties and responsibilities in relation to his cabinet, judges, Congress, and foreign States; the nature and jurisdiction of the Judicial Branch and the duties and responsibilities of its various courts; the legal relationship between and among the several States and Citizens to the Federal government; the procedures of Congress for further Amendments; the nature of the Constitution being “the supreme Law of the Land”; and, finally, its ratification.
Though the Constitution seems quite methodical in its presentation, one might notice that many of its specifics, and even its general structure, are more or less arbitrarily determined. If a representative government is to be formed, then someone has to make up its quantitative and qualitative rules, and these are probably as “good” as any.
While a full critique of the Constitution would certainly require a book in itself (and lots of strong coffee), it’s important to focus on its major flaws in relation to our liberties, specifically its enabling of the coercive powers of government. Article 1 Section 8 shall serve our purposes well here, for it specifies many of the essential aspects of what our so-called limited government has permission to do. This is what folks mean, among other things, when they advocate governmental adherence to the Constitution:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
The power “To lay and collect Taxes” is equivalent to theft, because the services aren’t solicited by individuals and the funds aren’t voluntarily contributed. To call expropriated wealth “revenue” is really an insult to earnest businesspersons everywhere.
The “common Defence and general Welfare of the United States” is perhaps the largest national abstraction possible. Might this be why the Pentagon and Congressional bills squander hundreds of billions of tax dollars each year?
The U.S. budget is approaching three trillion dollars. Needless to say, this isn’t the sort of Federal government that the Framers intended, but this clause certainly provides for it. The government’s special road to hell continues to be paved with “good intentions.”
Additionally, the idea that “Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform” exposes the absurdity of fair thievery.
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
Perhaps at times it’s wise for a person or company to borrow money, but for a government to do so merely adds more theft to its list of already despotic actions. After the coercive practices of taxation and regulation, the victims have little else to “give.” A State-controlled banking system and a printing press thus enable such things as meddling with interest rates and inflating the money supply, hence devaluing the people’s wealth.
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To “regulate Commerce” means to interfere with free trade, plain and simple. Though the Framers may have intended this clause to mean something else (like preventing state governments from impeding commerce), all three branches of government have taken it upon themselves to apply it to nearly every conceivable behavior, including things grown on your own property and used strictly for your own consumption. In short, now nothing is safe from regulation.
And of course, the U.S. government’s regulation of the Indian tribes began with a trail of tears (and blood), broken promises, and violated treaties; it continues with many of their descendants impoverished by statist welfare programs.
To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
While initially pretty straightforward, “a uniform Rule of Naturalization” has turned into an onerous regulatory bureaucracy that thwarts millions of industrious people’s attempts to move to America and make a living here.
People have a right to trade their labor like any other value, good, or service. To regulate such trade is therefore to regulate people’s freedom to associate and freedom to travel. Today’s fervent rhetoric against “illegal immigration” reflects the prevalent notion that law should be obeyed regardless of its infringement on individual rights and lack of logic. If anything, people’s anger ought to be directed at the welfare State and at the police State required to enforce “our borders,” both of which continue to expose the ills of Communist thinking.
Property owners ought to be able to determine who can and cannot travel on their property. Fortunately, by definition, the market highly favors those who invite and promote commerce with fellow travelers and residents, and it tends to disfavor those who isolate themselves from such commerce.
And what about bankruptcies? They should be left to customary law precedents, whereby being absolved from one’s debts would be something to work out with one’s creditors. Governmentally authorized bankruptcy is a deterrent to sound money management, be it by an individual or by a company.
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
“Uncle Sam,” the entity that taxes the People, is now authorized to make more money and dictate its value in the marketplace. This is especially handy when further taxes become unpopular; treasury bonds are handy too, of course. Governmental officials would rather us not understand the real nature of money and currency.
In order to avoid confusion, let’s examine some definitions that draw the necessary distinctions. Money is a commodity, such as gold or silver, generally recognized and accepted in the marketplace as a universal medium of exchange. It’s typically shaped or organized for accurate assessment and ease of transfer, for example, minted. Money has various properties that contribute to it being widely accepted. These include being scarce (making it relatively difficult to increase supply), portable, durable, equally divisible, non-counterfeitable, and esthetically or culturally appealing. Money that also has non-monetary uses, for instance, for industrial purposes, provides additional value in the marketplace, which may or may not contribute to its advantage over other types of money.
Currency is a note or coin, or digital representation thereof, that may or may not be redeemable for money. But it’s nonetheless recognized and accepted as a universal medium of exchange for use in non-barter transactions. Money-backed currencies, such as paper receipts or certificates, facilitate transactions in which physical transfer of the money they represent (historically, gold and silver stored in banks) proves burdensome. After all, it can be a real pain to lug around a bunch of metal pieces.
Fiat currency is governmentally controlled currency that’s issued monopolistically and prohibited from being redeemable for money. Because of its coercive character, fiat currency exposes a couple facts: It hasn’t been recognized and accepted voluntarily by the marketplace, and any voluntarily chosen market money and/or redeemable currency would drive it out of existence. Thus, fiat currency requires a legalized monopoly in order to prevent its own demise, as well as to promote its recognition and acceptance as a universal medium of exchange.
Not surprisingly, for these reasons, fiat currency tends to be seen by most people as simply “money.” Over time, understanding is lost about the voluntary roots of money and its preferential selection by the marketplace, as well as the tremendously negative economic effects of fiat currency. The American dollar, the basic unit of fiat currency in the United States, has now lost nearly all of its initial value. Originally it was a governmentally regulated money coin that designated a specific quantity (typically silver) or a currency note redeemable for a set quantity of either silver or gold under governmentally controlled bimetallism.
The government plainly has no valid business determining the medium of exchange in an economy. That’s the market’s job. Individuals in the marketplace determine, based on supply and demand principles, what the media of exchange will be and their values in relation to other goods and services. Typically, throughout history, the market has chosen metallic standards such as gold and silver.
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
This clause grants the biggest counterfeiter of all the ability to punish others who wish to play the same game. All thieves must be arrested, except those with the power “To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises” and “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;”
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
This one probably doesn’t need much comment, only to mention that it gave rise to the phrase, reflecting the horrific behavior, “Going postal.” Granting the government a monopoly on mail delivery makes about as much sense as granting it a monopoly on baby delivery. Anyone care to stand in that line?
In regard to post Roads, true to some of the Framers’ concerns, federal and state established roads have been a regulatory bonanza for government (NHTSA and DOT are two examples) and a huge cost for Americans. Immense traffic congestion and around forty thousand fatalities from auto accidents annually (millions suffering lesser fates) demonstrate one more thing that government has no business doing.
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
It turns out that this clause was destined to stifle progress in the arts and sciences. Confusion over who actually owns what and what rights people have in relation to their own possessions has produced brigades of attorneys and battalions of court cases to sort out the non-sortable litigious mess. We’ll address this extensively in another chapter, so it’s sufficient to say here that the market should decide how to freely honor creators and innovators, as it does everything else.
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
Naturally, justices of the Supreme Court can’t preside over all cases in America. In fact they only hear a small fraction (less than a couple hundred) of the many thousands of cases that make it to their docket each year. Of course, it makes great sense to delegate authority and “outsource” when it comes to settling disputes and dealing with wrongdoers (tortfeasors). If only the high Court and the lower courts dealt solely with those types of cases. Unfortunately, that’s like asking a lion to become a vegetarian. More often than not, courts do Democracy’s bidding, which involves continually violating other people’s freedoms and property.
This also raises the big questions of authority and jurisdiction. Why should any particular court have the final say? How many appeals should be permitted? What are the costs and how are fees determined? How can the right to a speedy and just trial be reconciled with a legalized monopoly of law? What happens when a particular court itself commits a tort? Who judges the judges? As noted in other chapters, only a free market of legal professionals can answer these questions to any reasonable degree of satisfaction. What America has presently is an injustice system. In the coercive world view of most judges, up is down; right is left; 2+2=5; innocent is guilty.
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
Again, the questions “Under whose jurisdiction, and at whose expense?” arise. And the answers “Government’s jurisdiction and at the taxpayer’s expense” ought to raise at least one eyebrow by now. The idea of punishing piracy seems understandable enough. Anyone who robs, pillages, or plunders, with or without an eye patch and a hook for a hand, is a bad guy. But the idea of “Felonies” begs the question of the validity of statutory law.
You’ve probably noticed that governments are adept at calling all sort of things felonies, in order to fine people and lock them up, or kill them when they don’t submit. Real criminality, however, entails violating other people’s rights, which means initiating force against their persons and/or property.
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
Interestingly, the last few Presidents have found this clause inconvenient for foreign policy purposes, so they’ve just ignored it and proceeded to embark on various military missions (though they themselves never enter into harm’s way). The last time Congress officially declared war was way back in 1941 against Japan and Germany. All subsequent wars of the U.S. military were fought in violation of this clause. Many pundits today think it’s outdated or unnecessary, but the Framers knew the immense danger of placing national war-declaring power into the hands of a single person in the executive branch of government. The Commander in Chief is supposed to conduct war, not make it.
Nevertheless, this just deals with the surface details. The real issue, again, involves jurisdiction and expense. Who exactly are those who declare War and grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, let alone the CIA and NSA, accountable to? And who are the people who follow their orders accountable to? More often than not, war, which is essentially large-scale legalized killing, is devised by its planners for their own purposes and their own ends—one end being more control and power over thecitizenry. Indeed, as Randolf Bourne noted, “War is the health of the State.”
The character of Odysseus in the film Troy had a memorable assessment of this issue: “War is young men dying and old men talking.” The character of Achilles in the same film put it this way: “Imagine a king who fights his own battles. Wouldn’t that be a sight?”
So goes war over countless centuries. As long as the leaders in government cantake their “revenues” rather than earn them through profits (the opposite of “war profiteering,” by the way), they’ll always cast longing eyes toward military adventurism. As long as someone else has to pay the bills, in both blood and money, they’ll continue to draw up schemes of greed, conquest, and destruction—and say it’s for our freedoms, the security of the nation, the good of the people, the safety of our children, and other such collectivistic nonsense.
U.S. Imperialism, Global Empire, Pax Americana, the World’s Policeman, the Warfare State, Big Brother—call it what you like—its so-called leaders have taken America far from its intended moorings as a peaceful nation “entangling alliances with none,” in Jefferson’s words.
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
Again, at whose expense and under whose jurisdiction, in accordance with the principles of private property and individual rights? Clearly, two years is simply too short a time span for rulers who desire to satisfy the hunger of a giant military/industrial complex. Staggeringly large military or “defense” appropriations are now commonplace, as are standing armies.
To provide and maintain a Navy;
Same questions: At whose expense and under whose jurisdiction? Currently, the U.S. Navy treats its sailors to tours around the world, harboring for years at numerous foreign ports, flying sorties and launching million dollar missiles now and then—all at taxpayers’ expense.
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
This clause follows from the others, but it still begs the main questions. Given the rules and regulations that government imposes on the market, we can expect the ones drawn up for themselves to be no less nonsensical. Nearly anyone who’s spent time in the military will attest to its wastefulness, inefficiency, and plain wrongheadedness.
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
Many of the federalist Framers were concerned about the potential for more insurrections like that of Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts, which was eventually halted by a State-organized militia. Daniel Shays and others were successful, however, in freeing many farmers from debtors prisons and many more from being bankrupted in courts through land foreclosures, which were induced by excessive litigation fees and high property taxes imposed by the Massachusetts’ senate (composed primarily of commercial interests). It’s an interesting story in its own right, and it exposes once again the problems of representative government, which imposes taxes and is not accountable to people but rather mainly to special interests. Naturally, such a government will seek ways to preserve itself and its interests, at the expense of liberty and justice.
Nowadays, of course, there’s no need to call forth the Militia, because the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reserve are already in place performing their assorted duties. The principle of State preservation is the same, from dictatorships to constitutional Republics.
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
What’s called “national defense” now occupies over 130 countries around the globe. Troops are stationed in countries in which battles were fought many decades ago, as well as in places where battles have never been fought. The National Guard and Reserve have been sent to help occupy Iraq, creating still more irony. This is all supposed to make the world safe for “freedom and Democracy.” Investigate for yourself the number of foreign actions taken by U.S. military forces as well as covert operations, for example by the CIA. Try not to be too surprised. After all, it’s for the good of the people, you see.
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;
Washington D.C. Which do you prefer at this point: District of Columbia or District of Criminals? Does anyone serious believe that George Washington would want his name associated with the present organization—or for that matter, the buildings? The prodigious Greco-Roman architecture in D.C. tends to evoke feelings of permanence and even reverence, but history has demonstrated that ideas, not architecture, ultimately create permanence and reverence.
—And To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Oy Vey. I wonder if the Framers had a sense of shame while approving this clause. Although, when you’re in the coercive power and corruption business, there’s no need to impose any serious restrictions upon yourself, or any serious consequences for violating the ones you do impose. Instead, it’s carte blanche with the “elastic clause.” Yes, that’s because “necessary and proper” has been used to justify all kinds of legislation and actions that would undoubtedly make most of the Framers shake their heads in disgust.
By now it’s probably most apparent that rules and orders written on paper, no matter how well-conceived and crafted, don’t necessitate people’s adherence to them. One key to understanding the Constitution is that it’s only as effective as the integrity of those who believe in its ideas. Yet there are really two issues here: the content and the adherence to that content. The foregoing analysis of Article 1 Section 8 demonstrates that the content, irrespective of how it was intended at its creation, has deep and irrevocable flaws. These flaws have clearly been exploited by those who don’t care about how big and intrusive government gets; or rather, they only want it to get bigger and more intrusive. Those who attained office soon found all kinds of powers and wealth at their disposal, and they deliberately sought to exploit those features.
Once government enacts the power to tax, the unjust game begins. It’s then a tug-of-war between the rights-respecting and the rights-violating aspects of the citizenry and their elected representatives. But this game isn’t a fair one. It takes place on an uneven field, and those who strive to take the moral high ground are soon outnumbered by those below. They’re easily pulled down into the political muck.
This is demonstrated by all the debates in America about the problems of government and how to deal with them. There are policies and studies galore, but no real solutions: campaign finance reform; further regulations against lobbying; a presidential line-item veto; term limits for legislators and judges; reduced pay and benefits; bipartisan investigative commissions; a flat tax; a fair tax; a national sales tax; tax cuts and tax credits; supply-side economics; new “cutting-edge” programs for this or that; competitive bidding on governmental contracts; improved “streamlined” regulations; “deregulation” (in name only); and, always more fundingand practically never less spending; oh, and let’s not forget...“leave no child behind”—or is it standing?
Indeed, very few individuals propose the only just and moral solution that would be like a knife cutting the rope in the relentless game of tug-of-war, sending all the rights-violators tumbling to the bottom. The power to tax is the power to acquire wealth ultimately at the point of a gun. That is the evil essence of taxation, and of the State. If you don’t oppose it, then you leave humanity open to an unending source of despicable behavior and exploitation.
The Framers knew that the game they were devising required taxation in order to be played. Maybe their main hope was that things wouldn’t get too out of hand, that is, out of the hands of the citizenry and into the hands of oppressive government. The Framers knew that coercive power tends to corrupt even the noblest of character. The separation of powers and various checks and balances were the safeguards they imposed. To protect against despotism and runaway corruption, they depended on the people to be vigilant in thwarting attempts by those in power to circumvent these supposed safeguards.
But even the most vigilant citizenry won’t be able to monitor all the things happening within the large bowels of government, nor stop the relentless flow of corruption. Americans have neither the time nor the energy, nor the real capacity to do something about it—so long as they believe that the Constitution has legitimate authority. The game will always be rigged in favor of the State and those who desire to wield its power.
Whether or not they ever meet their representatives, let alone influence some of their decisions, most people rightly feel that politicians and bureaucrats will neverhave a positive impact on their lives. So, most of us move onward in the pursuit of our own happiness, yet resigned in the certainty of “death and taxes.” Those involved in politics, on the other hand, continue to see nothing but opportunities—opportunities to pander, to make promises, to gain riches and power, to achieve fame, control, and still more control.
Our Constitutional Republic is mainly in the business of three disrespectful things: monopolizing the money supply and printing dollars out of thin air, thereby inflating and devaluing currency; taking wealth from you through taxation rather than asking for it through voluntary trade; and, telling you to do things that you never agreed to, using force whenever you disobey.
The sad fact of the matter is that the Constitution, like Democracy, also contained the seeds of its own destruction. It was essentially the most civil way to allow for the most uncivil things to be done to people. Democracy, representation, taxation, and regulation are all affronts to private property and the idea of self-ownership, which happen to be the topics of the next chapter.