Monday, November 1, 2010

A Political Discussion With My Son

My oldest son and I have been exchanging emails about the election. He believes that I have compromised my principles by casting my vote for candidates whose views and values do not reflect my own. And he's right. I have. I compromised because I want the current administration gone, and was willing to vote for what Jason calls "the lesser of two evils" in order to make that happen. Rather than vote for those whose values most closely reflect mine (because I didn't believe they had a chance of winning), I voted for those I thought had the better chance of beating the democrats.

I think I'm more optimistic than Jason. But he is realistic and looks at things with clarity, whereas I'm usually wearing my rose-colored glasses. Anyway, I asked his permission to post one of his emails on my blog, and after some consideration he agreed to allow it. I believe his arguments are good and well thought out, and maybe they will give you food for thought, as they did for me.

It's long, but worth the read.

Stop Voting for Democrats and Republicans

The Constitution of the United States of America has failed. It has not achieved its essential purpose: to safeguard and secure the blessings of liberty for the American people. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights… Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power… Our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go… In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” (Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798)
As Jefferson notes, the Constitution was intended to bind down the national government (and the men who possess power within it) from “mischief” against our rights and liberties. Accordingly, the Constitution enumerates a specific list of powers granted to the national government, reserving everything else to the states and the people, and it acknowledges the inherent natural rights that individuals possess—not because the Constitution grants them—but because they are inherent and inalienable and precede any law or dictum of government.

The founders of our nation held an abhorrence of democracy and simple majority rule, since it lends an aura of legitimacy to actions which would otherwise be deemed criminal or tyrannical. James Madison wrote, “Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” (Federalist Paper #10) John Adams said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” This clarity of vision is what drove our founders to institute a constitutional republican form of limited government, which attempts to reduce the tyranny of mob rule and makes the protection of individual rights the very purpose of government. (“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 to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…)

But look at us, today. Do you believe our government is what the founders intended? Would they even recognize what it has become? The government ignores the Constitution. It passes unconstitutional laws. It establishes and funds unconstitutional federal agencies and departments. It both exceeds the limits of its enumerated authority, every day and all the time, and it also infringes on the natural rights it’s supposed to uphold. It intrudes in and regulates almost every aspect of our lives.

“The air you breathe. The water you drink. The size of your toilet tank. The water pressure in your shower. The subjects your children study in school. The manner in which your physician treats you when you’re ill. The speed you drive your car. What you can drink before you get in the car. All of these are regulated by the Congress. Congress has written over 4000 criminal laws that take up over 1 million pages of text… Does the Congress recognize any limits on its ability to legislate whatever it wants? Yes…whatever it can get away with.” (Judge Andrew Napolitano, “The Verdict,” Fox News)
As it continues to grow and to intrude and to impose itself in more and more aspects of our lives, the government drains more and more of our prosperity to feed itself. Merely by its intrusion, it disrupts our economy and stifles our productivity. It increases the tax burden on us. Where it doesn’t tax us, directly, it borrows the money, increasing our debt through deficit spending. Where it doesn’t tax us or increase our debt, it increases the supply of money, causing inflation that devalues every dollar we own. In fact, it has changed the monetary and banking laws to allow the creation of new money at will, removing any fixed foundation of value (e.g. gold or silver) from the dollar. It ignores some of its chains and legislates others out of existence.

The problem is systemic. It is not limited to one political party. We both know the policies of the Democrats are bad for the nation, so I’ll concentrate all my opprobrium on the Republicans. The Republicans are just as culpable as the Democrats. Even Republican governments that are popularly viewed as free market, libertarian-leaning, and laissez-faire have marched in exactly the opposite direction. Reagan is often seen as a champion of small government. But under Reagan the government grew, with the increased spending being funded through inflation and massive debt. In 1980, the government spent $591 billion and ran a $73.8 billion deficit. In 1988, the government spent over $1 trillion and ran a $155 billion deficit. Despite lip service to free trade, imports facing restrictions increased 100% over the course of his two terms. Reagan promised to end draft conscription, but later flip-flopped his position. He promised to restore sound money through the gold standard, but failed to follow through on that, as well. He pledged to abolish the Departments of Energy and Education, but instead strengthened them. The bottom line is that government grew, debt grew, and inflation grew. This is not the legacy of a champion of limited government and free markets.

The Bush presidency is even worse, in many respects. Over the Bush years, federal regulation continued to expand. Federal regulations went from 64,438 in 2001 to 78,090 in 2007. Far from acting as a check or balance on Congress, Bush vetoed fewer Congressional bills than any other president in history. Instead of working to reduce or eliminate government interference in the market, he signed a record $190 billion farm subsidy bill. He signed the market-stifling Sarbanes-Oxley Act into law. He signed McCain Feingold into law, even while conceding he thought it was unconstitutional. He increased spending in many areas, including medical welfare programs and education programs (e.g. No Child Left Behind). He signed the Patriot Act, which runs roughshod over rights (warrantless searches and communications monitoring, etc). He instituted the TSA. From 2001 through 2007, Bush increased spending an average of 4 percent per year. Then he nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and instituted the first of the ruinous bailouts to which we have been subjected. To follow the previous Republican Fed appointment of Greenspan (who gave us the inflationary dot-com and housing bubbles), Bush selected Bernanke, which is more of the same, as far as economic and monetary policy goes. Government spending, size, and power grew more under Bush than under any former President in my lifetime. In fact, in terms of expanding the scope of government and its influence and intervention, he ranks up there with FDR and LBJ. This is not the legacy of a champion of limited government and free markets.

You have said that the issue of abortion is your main issue, and view the Republicans as the party that supports the right to life. Yet the Sanctity of Life Act, which would have overturned Roe vs. Wade by defining human life and personhood as beginning at conception and amending the federal judicial code to remove Supreme Court jurisdiction, never became law and never even received serious consideration or press coverage. This, despite the supposedly pro-life President and Republican-controlled Congress. Just like they give lip service to libertarian economic and personal liberty policies, but don’t follow through, I think Republicans give lip service to pro-life issues, but don’t pursue serious actions in that direction.

Our country has been on our current track, the wrong track, for at least a century. Government power and influence has continued to grow all throughout that time. The ideals behind the Constitution have become more and more marginalized. Both of our major parties are on this course. The differences between them are meaningless, in the big picture. They are two sides of the same (cupronickel clad) coin, flipping over to show first one face, then the other. And as a nation, we citizens keep believing that turning the coin over is going to make things better, “this time.”

You believe that the Republicans are a “lesser evil,” and that choosing the lesser evil is a good act because you have no other practical or meaningful choice. I disagree on several grounds. I disagree that you have no other practical or meaningful choice. I also disagree that voting for the Republicans is good because they are the lesser evil. A lesser evil is still an evil. And in this case, “lesser” is meaningless: a distinction without a real difference. When you vote for politicians who stand for positions and take actions which harm us and which violate both the Constitution and our natural rights, you are endorsing them. You are condoning the evil. You are saying that it is acceptable. You are offering them your mandate. You sanction their evil and give it the legitimacy of “popular support.”

You also believe that maybe “this time” the Republicans mean what they say. You want to be optimistic. You want to have confidence. But even those “tea party” Republican candidates who give such fine speeches about reducing taxes and spending can’t offer an example of a federal program they would cut. On Fox news, tea party candidate Carly Fiorina was asked seven times by Chris Wallace to name “one single entitlement expenditure you’re willing to cut” in order “to extend all the Bush tax cuts, which would add 4 trillion to the deficit.” Mr. Wallace asked her “…where are you going to find $4 trillion dollars to cut?” She did not name a single expenditure she would cut or say where she would find the money. Instead, she accused Wallace of “asking a typical political question.” Remember what Jefferson said about confidence in such people, and what a “dangerous delusion” that is.

You believe that you should vote, that it is your patriotic duty, and that you must therefore make the best of the selection that is presented to you. However, you are being presented with a false choice. A choice which is no choice. And you are accepting this with the attitude that there’s nothing else you can do and that you must make the best of it. When a steer is led to slaughter it might be given a similar choice: go down the left channel or go down the right channel. Both journeys end the same. That is how I see the choices we are given to vote on. And that is why I refuse to select a “lesser evil that can actually win.” I would rather make a vote of no confidence by simply not voting, or by “throwing away” my vote on a third party candidate who can’t win, rather than offer my mandate, my approval, and my support to a candidate who represents policies and performs actions that I repudiate.

Imagine that we were debating this with the founders. When I rail against the government and its abuses, when I reject the farce of choosing between two parties who do violence to our Constitution and the principles it stands for, when I go so far as to refuse to vote at all, am I unpatriotic? When you vote for the lesser evil, are you doing your patriotic duty? Do you think the founders would stand with you, or with me? My opening sentence was the shocking statement that the Constitution has failed. But that’s a distorted picture. The Constitution is just a piece of paper; it can’t protect and secure anything. If the principles and ideals of the Constitution have not been upheld, it’s not because the Constitution was derelict in its duty. We have been sheep. We have been cattle. The people have failed.

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, (A)nd if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” (Thomas Jefferson)
“If a republican 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.” (Noah Webster)
“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.” (Thomas Paine)
“He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of this country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man….The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.” (Samuel Adams)
“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. . . When a citizen gives his suffrage to a man of known immorality he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor, he betrays the interest of his country.” (Noah Webster, again)
“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature…. If the next centennial does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.” (President James Garfield)
We have the government we deserve. We deserve it because we follow the easy path, we vote for the lesser evil, and we do not jealously guard our liberty. Jefferson said to educate the people so they would make good decisions, but in our government schools we don’t learn to mistrust the government and to jealously guard our liberty, we learn how wonderful our government is. Patriotism is conflated with nationalism and state, rather than with liberty and the principles that truly made America and her grand experiment great. Our political candidates tug on the strings, invoking “country” and we leap high. They say “come and vote — do your important and essential patriotic duty” and we rush to pull the lever, giving sanction and legitimacy to a government that tramples the very ideals our founders sought to protect. And we get a sticker.

I repudiate the status quo of our government, including the policies of the Democrats and the Republicans over the course of the last century. It is a single course. It is the wrong course. I forswear it. I renounce it. I would nullify and abrogate it. I will never again lend it my mandate, even if every other voter in the land chooses to condone it. There are issues where compromise is possible, and there are issues where compromise is not. On the question of the unalienable rights the Constitution is intended to secure no compromise is possible. Give me a party and a candidate worthy of my vote—one who recalls that the purpose of government is to protect liberty and rights, recognizes the limits of government authority, and honors the inalienable rights of men in both word and deed—and I will offer it. Otherwise I offer nothing but opposition.

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces. (Étienne de La Boétie, The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude)
In our conversation, you said we can’t have a revolution. You’re wrong. We can have one. I think we must have one, or else we will go the way of other doomed democracies and republics that preceded us. I’m not talking about violence. That’s foolishness, and would only cause a “rally ‘round the flag” reaction, anyway. I’m talking about a radical change in perception among the people: a paradigm shift. I’m talking about a shift to principles that are worthy of patriotism. I’m talking about people waking up and refusing to pay their coin to go around the carousel again. If we’d step off the carousel we might get somewhere, instead of going around in circles.”

The government needs our support for its legitimacy. We need for people to say “no more,” and to mean it. We need a revolution in thought and perception. We need to stop accepting the status quo and “doing what we can” and start demanding the liberty the founders wished for us. You believe your one vote is worth something? Then only use it on something worthy.

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