Quote To Ponder: 11/28/05

“Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put in this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer. It’s so hard for government planners, no matter how sophisticated, to ever substitute for millions of individuals working night and day to make their dreams come true. The fact is, bureaucracies are a problem around the world.”

— Ronald Reagan

Another Reason Why Government Schools Suck

This story from the AP about a government school administration confiscating all copies of the official student newspaper. The reasons were because the paper had an article dealing with the success rate of certain kinds of birth control and it showed the picture of an unidentified student’s tattoo. Now clearly what the government school administrators want is control over this publication and they want to decide what gets printed and what doesn’t. All in all, the kids are getting an excellent civics lesson in what happens when you let the authorities decide can and can’t be printed. Also, they’re getting a lesson in why government schools are one of the biggest threats to liberty in America. They seek to instill values and ideas in our children that are the exact opposite of what our Founding Fathers believed and sending a child to one is to quote Neal Boortz, “a form of child abuse”. Anything that will weaken their power, ie. vouchers or any other school choice program, can only be described as a good thing.

Democracy and Tyranny

If you ask most people to compare democracy and tyranny, they will say that they are polar opposites, since no particular person can gain or abuse power without the consent of the majority. While even this is not true, as proven by Adolf Hitler’s rise to democratically-elected power, it is far from the end of the story. It is never considered whether the majority could oppress a minority, or even whether the majority could oppress itself.

First, let us address the majority oppressing the minority by looking at Social Security. Let me quote from my last article for this site:

With words like this FDR convinced an entire generation to trade away their liberty, and the liberty of their fellow citizens, in return for the promise of a brighter future. Roosevelt convinced a good part of the American population that the government could make better decisions for them than they could themselves. They saw the promise of mighty civic heroes acting to save them from the vagaries of circumstance.

The decision to give up control of one’s life to another, of course, is one every individual is free to make. The problem here is not that people are choosing to do this for themselves, but rather they are choosing to do it through the state, an institution that affects everyone. We all participate in and pay for FDR’s “great defense” program, even though a good number of us would rather not. Because FDR’s program is run through the state, a democracy, our preferences were ignored in favor of the majority.

Haughty equality vs. humble equality — posted 11/24/2005

How is Social Security tyranny? The issue is simple. I am oppressed by Social Security because I am forced to sacrifice some of my property by the state. I was never asked whether I would like to sacrifice some of my property to participate in the Social Security system. A majority, voting decades before I was born, made the decision that everyone should sacrifice some of their property to fund the Social Security system.

Many would argue that, since it was a democratic majority, it is not tyranny. From my vantage point as an individual, it makes no difference who decided I should give up property without my consent; I am oppressed because I am forced to do so. Simple, is it not?

Now, I can already hear some people saying that this Quincy fellow is just a selfish curmudgeon who doesn’t want to help his fellow Americans. While I am a generous person by choice, I resent being forced to do things without my consent. My perceived generosity, though, is neither here nor there in regards to the point of this essay.

Considering that most of the people who would raise the above objection have a certain view on another issue, let us examine that as our next case. Here’s the question: Would it be tyranny if the majority of people voted to ban abortion for everyone?

Ah, now the issue is not as clear cut, is it? If you believe that women should be able to get abortions, then such a vote would be horribly wrong in your mind. If you believe that they shouldn’t, such a vote would be a vindication. In this case, just as in the Social Security case, a majority voted to impose its will on a minority.

This brings us to another question: Does the size of a group that holds a position reflect the rightness of that position? While it should be clear from the last 5 millennia of human history that a majority can be terribly wrong, this is still a commonly held fallacy. Let us consider the case of the Catholic Church during the inquisition. It held the majority view that the earth was flat and everything rotated around it. As we know, from the work of Columbus, Galileo, Keppler, and Copernicus, these views were incorrect. Each of those four men contradicted the views held by millions, but these four were right and the millions were wrong.

If not democracy, then what? That is a good question. I’ve spent the last several paragraphs illustrating the problems of democracy, but I have not yet offered a better way. You may not believe this after reading the above, but democracy is part of the answer. The other part of the answer is the realization that certain things are so sacrosanct that they must never come up for a vote. First among these are the rights to life, liberty, and property. Second are those liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights. They are so important that, no matter what the majority wills, they cannot be abridged. This concept, that the law and natural rights are more important than the wills of men, is vital to ensuring that democracy does not become tyranny. It is something we must learn, or re-learn, before it is too late.

Thinking About Constitutional Issues

An opinion piece in the Washington Post today provides some good fodder for thinking on Constitutional issues, especially the all important 9th and 10th amendments and the power of the Federal court system. Although, overall, I have some problems with the editorial, I definitely enjoyed the opening paragraph:

Conservatives want courts to be stingy in creating and expanding constitutional rights — except when they don’t. Liberals want courts to be creative and expansive in interpreting the Constitution — except when they don’t.

To say that this is a broad generalization, and a significant misunderstanding of “rights”, would be fair. To say that it is a good characterization of social conservatives and liberals would also be fair. They have completely lost sight of what the Constitution is. The document is not a listing of what rights individuals have. Nor is it a document to empower the government to take whatever action a majority deems appropriate. The document actually does just two things.

  1. Establish the framework of the national government and enumerate the specific powers the government has.
  2. Provide specifically what powers the government does not have, and bound those powers as the limit of what the government may do

It is this framework that is so sorely misunderstood today. We see it every day when the Congress, aided and abetted by the President, the Courts, the pundits and the majority, establish laws and regulations dealing with schools, train crossings, welfare, growing marijuana, regulating gun ownership and much more.

What we see here is the belief that government is here to do things for us, rather than for us to do things for ourselves, with a government that ensures that no one is violating someone else’s rights. The writer, as might be expected on the Post, misses that fact herself. Although, to her credit, she sees the inherent problem in the position she takes:

Yet, if conservatives don’t actually have a zero-tolerance policy toward judicial activism, neither can liberals claim particular constitutional consistency. Those who believe, as Reinhardt does (and as I do), that the Constitution should be interpreted expansively enough to embrace protection for abortion and gay rights have a hard time explaining why that approach doesn’t encompass a broad view of parental rights.

And that, of course, is the problem. If you have a right to privacy, isn’t that right to privacy expansive to your entire life? Or is it only so for abortion, birth control and what sort of sex you have?

And, there is a deeper problem, of course. One that the left will never admit. That problem is simply this. None of this would be an issue for the Federal government if the left had not pushed the powers of the Federal government into every nook and cranny of our lives during the New Deal and Great Society, especially after the switch in time that saved nine gave FDR essentially a free hand. The problem is not that the constitution is interpreted incorrectly. The problem is that we have tossed the constitution out the window, kept a veneer, a fig leaf, and proceeded to create a government that is exactly what our Founding Fathers rebelled against: Run by Rule of Man, not Rule of Law, expansive, intrusive, and anti-liberty.

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