Lee Emmerich Jamison
Freedom. What does that word mean to you? Is it just doing what you please, or is there something deeper to it? I think it means having a grasp of both what I must respect in others and what others must respect in me. One can't be free if one has no regard for the needs and concerns of others. Why? Because that disregard will lead to the harm of others. Then their self defense will close off even one's otherwise harmless options. One also can't be free if the larger society, particularly the government, can disregard one's own needs and concerns. The need side of that equation is obvious. Fail to fill true needs and a person sickens and/or dies. But governments do not exist over needs. Tribes fill those just fine. Governments exist because of concerns, the reduction of anxiety, the desire to know one's place in the world, to be assured that there will be order in society, and the sense that one's efforts will be to one's own credit. In large societies failure to meet the challenge of these concerns results in a cultural paralysis. That is, by definition, a loss of freedom.
To meet the challenge of establishing a free society our culture, from its ancient roots in the Middle East and Persia, set out laws binding (at least nominally) even on the elite of society. A people who know well what they must not do may feel freer to do those things society permits. Thus we became, and by halting steps have improved on being, nations of written and comprehensible laws and not just the stuttering pawns of powerful men.
A crucial part of making a modern nation of laws and not of men is having laws that reflect the wishes of the people. We addressed this idea and how to reinforce this fading national trait in yesterday's post. Of as much importance, though, is the notion that those who carry out the commands contained in the laws thus made do so faithfully. They must be restrained by the law themselves or the effort that went into civilizing a whole people into taking part in governing themselves becomes mute.
Failing at this ideal is not merely the first step into tyrrany. We see in the struggles of newly freed peoples such as those in Russia who have never had the responsibility of participating in self-government such civic power requires a level of skill in cooperation they have never developed. When the authorities who execute laws and the courts that adjudicate them show disdain for the people's choices they push the populus down a path that leads eventually to an irrevocable cynicism. A truly cynical people, because they are incapable of seeing the needs and concerns of their neighbors in the same light as their own, can never be free.
We must never permit government in America to do this to us.
As was noted in yesterday's post the courts in America began to take a high-handed approach with the law during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. In the crisis of the Great Depression it seemed expedient to free the courts from the constraints of the Consititution so that the government might take measures to reestablish the economy. What we now know, though, is that the extraconsititutional measures of those days did not end the Depression, which was, in fact as bad or worse in the early days of 1941 as it had been in 1932. Perverse deflationary monetary policies, which rewarded the hoarding of cash with an effective artificial 'interest' rate, depressed economic activity in a way only the real crisis of W.W.II could overcome.
The economic legacy of the Great Depression we will discuss later. Suffice it for now to say that the society that invests in money starves. The judicial legacy haunts us even now. Freed of its moorings in the Constitution the court system has become the only branch of government with the remarkable lattitude to decide for itself what its own powers are. This presents us with a more and ever more politicized judicial process as a vicious cycle has emerged from each new and more bizarre court decision. The courts negate the wishes of the people arbitrarily with some fiat from on high. The people try to respond with elected office holders who will rewrite law to accomplish their goals. The people then feel disempowered as the courts negate even this effort. The makeup of the courts themselves then become a major issue in elections for political offices. Finally, "wise" people decry the politization of the courts!
All of this happens because it seemed wise at some point to bypass the difficult and, frankly, often flawed process of making law by the Constitution's prescription.
This necessitates a third step in the process of reestablishing rule of law in America. (The first two were discussed yesterday.) We must reestablish the primacy of the literal written words, as understood by those who wrote them, in the interpretation of Constitutional law. The constitutional amendment that makes this move would, by its nature, negate nearly three fourths of the Federal government as we know it today. To do so "cold turkey" would be not merely disruptive, but devastating. For that reason this amendment must provide a sunset period during which government powers not yet explicitly authorized by the Consitution may remain in force, but setting a date-certain at which such extraconstitutional powers will expire. This should probably be a ten-year period to allow the people to understand the power they have gained and the responsibilities they will then bear.
The people themselves will then be required to decide whether abortion will be an explicitly protected right established in the Constitution, whether public payments may be made for charitable causes, whether religious expression may be supressed in public venues, what restrictions the federal government may place on the public policies of the states, whether the federal government has any role to play in education, and whether goverments have the right to seize private property for the ostensible "greater good" through a profitable use by other private property owners.
At the end of the ten years, as the tenth amendment now states, those powers not explicitly granted to the federal government will be reserved to the states or to the people. That is to say, what is not specifically written into the government's powers the government may not do.
That's all pretty frightening, is it not? Not nearly so much so as what government will morph into if we fail to take command of it. Over the last seventy years we have opted to get a sense of well-being from allowing a "bad dog" to hold the things we fear at bay. We have begun to pay a price as that bad dog cared less and less what we wanted and how we felt. Bad dog government now thinks more about its own needs and concerns than it thinks of ours.
For now you will only hear of suggestions such as this one in private venues like this one. Why is that? Once the bad dog no longer fears you he is free to choose whom he serves. Will he serve you who can offer him little or those you first empowered him to protect you from, those who can offer him much?
There is the crux of the issue. The government that is not beholden to you will serve the most powerful, the people you have the most reason to fear. They are the ones who have the power to control the information you get, the ones who can lull you to sleep, or distract you with anxieties.
Let government, through the fiat powers of the courts, decide for itself how powerful it will be and the people you will eventually serve will be the people you feared the most to begin with.
While we still can through our legitimate powers we must take back what is ours. These three steps will go a long way toward doing that.