Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

09 March 2008

Politics -- The Big Picture

Basically, politics concerns itself primarily about when to use the government monopoly on the use of force to make people take one action or another or to refrain from taking one action or another. George Washington put the matter clearly: "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."

So, why do we even need such a dangerous servant as is government? Our Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." Essentially, the Declaration of Independence says that government deserves only to exist for the purpose of securing (both protecting and fostering) the right of the individual to his life, his liberty, and to pursue what he deems to be those goals which will give him happiness. When government errs from these Principles, it is to be altered or abolished. This is very strong and clear language.

The government designed to accomplish the principle of securing the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was described in The Constitution of The United States of America. That document describes a government of strictly limited powers so that it could not evolve as most governments do to add more and more powers until it looms threateningly over the interests of the people and fails to protect their lives, their liberty, and their pursuit of happiness. The Framers of the Constitution largely objected to adding a Bill of Rights, because they feared they could not list all of the particular rights of the people and any omission might be viewed as giving the government the power to abridge the right of the people which was omitted. They argued that there was no need to assert that the individual had freedom of speech, because it was clear that the government had not been explicitly given the power to limit the freedom of speech. Therefore, it could not do so. These objectors to a Bill of Rights proved right in this argument, but they also proved wrong in thinking that the people would continue to understand why it was a critically important principle that the government powers be very rigorously held to those explicitly listed in The Constitution. Amendment IX of the Bill of Rights was included for the purpose of upholding the principle that "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This is never cited in defense of our liberties, however.

So, we started with a government of strictly limited powers which was formed to secure the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of the individual. This was a government to be confined in its actions and its use of force to this principle. This was a government of strict principle and to be judged, as a man is, on how well it lived up to its principles. All men were to judge it on this basis. All men were empowered to alter it or abolish it if it failed to live up to this principle.

What disaster befell our great experiment in limited government? How did it come to fail to live up to its principle that its sole purpose was to secure the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the individual? Almost immediately, unprincipled men sought to use the government to deliver special favors to them, provided by the government use of force. Pork barrel projects were put before the very first session of Congress and some were approved. Government tried, as government always does, to expand its powers. There was great temptation to ignore The Constitution from the beginning. Indeed, there were soon those who argued that the "Elastic Clause", now about the only aspect of the Constitution taught in our government-run public schools, gave the government the power to do anything that it claimed was in the Public Welfare. If this were the case, the Founders of our country and the Framers of the Constitution argued, then why had they worked so hard to enumerate the powers of the government? Many, many of them denied that the interpretation now given by voracious government was ever intended by the Framers. Indeed, it is transparently clear from the structure and the purpose clearly designed in The Constitution, that there is no such thing as an "Elastic Clause". But, when Congress today justifies any bill they pass, it is almost always said simply that it is deemed to be for the Public Welfare.

The fatal error in the language of The Constitution occurs in Article. 1., Section. 8. "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;" and the section continues with the enumerated list of powers. Now, if one chooses to take this clause out-of-context, then it is plausible that this is an elastic clause. But an in-context reading causes one to understand that the Framers held that the general Welfare was served and only served by a government of very strictly delimited powers. It was intended that the enumerated powers would be further constrained by a requirement that they be exercised in a manner consistent with the public welfare. This phrase was never intended to open the floodgates and to allow government to do whatever it wished to do. One has no need for a constitution at all, if one once decides to interpret this clause as giving the power to use force against the people with nothing more than the claim that it is for their own good, in the aggregate. It is clear that when only the general Welfare limits the power of government, then it is free to become a fascist government, which governments always claim that they act for the people, even as they ignore the right of any given individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When government is on longer limited by principles widely held and proclaimed by most every individual, then it is no longer restrained in its use of force. Such government is especially not reason. It is free to be dangerous and it requires a constant watchful vigilance. It grows ever bigger and more intrusive as law after law is proposed by pragmatic men lacking principles. Many of these laws are turned down, but since there are always special interests seeking their special interest, the pressure is always applied for the passage of laws injurious to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the individuals who cannot afford the time from their lives to be ever vigilant of the serpent now in their workplace, on the roads, in the fields, in their yards and homes, and sometimes in their bedrooms and bathrooms. The more the scale of government grows, the less able the voter is to maintain even a semblance of vigilance. He cannot keep track of the many laws proposed or even those that are approved. In recognition of the hopelessness of his situation, he simply stops caring about politics. It is too demanding and too depressing.

There is more to how this came to be and much of what I am about to describe can be learned in greater detail from Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2007) by Jonah Goldberg. Beginning with the French Revolution, much influenced by the socialist and nationalist Rousseau, fascist socialism reared it ugly head in human affairs. That revolution was widely admired even in the United States, though less and less as the horrific bloodlust continued, until even the French turned to Napoleon to save themselves from it. He was not much of a savior as it turned out, but he was to be preferred to Robespierre. Both were examples of the fascist admiration for strong, enlightened leaders who would show the ignorant masses the way by giving voice to the "general will." This admiration for such leaders is actually very widespread through the Progressives (Teddy Roosevelt & Woodrow Wilson), the Liberals (Franklin Delano Roosevelt & Harry Truman), the Communists (Lenin, Stalin, Krushchev, Mao, Pol Pot), and the Fascists (Mussolini, General Franco, Hitler [Nazi really]), socialists all.

Bismarck, of Prussia, was much admired in the latter 1800s in the US. Many young men went to Prussia for a college education and learned of his socialist government and public schools. They returned to the United States and often worked hard to copy his social programs and his public schools. In general, socialists of almost all variations worked hard to force compulsory public schools upon communities and states. They viewed this as the ideal way to mold citizens who would be amenable to socialism and to separate them from their parents who were too conservative for the Progressives. Some people favored public schools as a way to counter the influence of the Catholics and almost everyone thought them a good means to provide Americans with common characteristics. Among those characteristics was a weakening of moral principles and a substitution of pragmatism. William James and John Dewey worked hard for public schools and John Dewey is worshiped in most teacher's education colleges to this day.

William James taught that living in accordance with principles was stultifying. It was proper to be a pragmatist and whatever actually worked was the thing to do. Or, even whatever one believed worked was the thing to do. The will to believe was elevated over reality and pragmatism over principles. Dewey followed in his footsteps and especially pushed this vision forward in public education.

William James wrote the popular essay "The Moral Equivalent of War", which we hear repeated as a socialist phrase all the time, as in the War on Drugs, the War Against Obesity, the War Against Poverty, and the War Against Cancer. James, however, was advocating militarism as a pragmatic expedient to organize societies with a single, desirable purpose. His Will to Believe was meshed with Friedrich Nietzsche's Will to Power by Sorel, who much influenced Mussolini. Sorel transformed socialist revolutionary politics into a religion in which myth was used to capture the emotions of the ignorant masses to get them to join in the socialist revolution. Mussolini, following William James and Sorel, was called the "Prophet of the Pragmatic Era in Politics", the title of a 1926 article in Political Science Quarterly. James was very interested in the development of pragmatic theory in Italy which led to Mussolini's development of fascism. He also taught Herbert Croly at Harvard University, who went on to become the editor of the New Republic, which was to promote and develop the ideas of Teddy Roosevelt when he was the leader of the Progressive Party.

The New Republic was a cornerstone publication of the Progressives and then the Liberals in the United States. Croly was a pragmatist who believed in a socialist aristocracy and national spiritual rebirth, the use of national myths to motivate the people, contempt for parliamentary democracy, hatred of individualism, the need to treat society like an army and to make politics a religion, military expansion, and great revolutionaries. Like Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he argued that national life should be like a school with severe coercive measures. Like Roosevelt, he welcomed wars, many of them, as a means of progress; meaning an easy way to gain the implementation of socialist programs.

Croly made John Dewey the resident philosopher of the New Republic. Dewey publicized pragmatism and pushed for interventionist wars. Dewey also pushed for kindergartens (note the German for child in kinder) in order to remove children from their parents as early as possible to shape them into compliant social organs, a part of the people without being individuals. Child welfare agencies sprung up to further lessen the influence of parents. Dewey and President Wilson agreed that the purpose of education was to make children as unlike their fathers as possible. Dewey pushed for governmental experimentation on the people, as did Wilson and FDR.

President Wilson was quite the Progressive Leader, a real piece of work. Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck was one of Wilson's early heroes. Though he believed that giving blacks the right to vote was a terrible mistake, he also admired Abraham Lincoln because he centralized the government, implemented a draft, suspended habeas corpus, and sort of let loose the radical Republicans after the war. Wilson was fascinated with power, just as modern Liberals are. Power was God's instrument on earth, so it was to be admired. Wilson wrote Congressional Government when a student at the heavily Prussian-influenced Johns Hopkins University. He wanted the US to change to a parliamentary democracy so the legislature would have fewer checks to its power. He changed his mind when he was impressed by Teddy Roosevelt's being able to develop the power of the Presidency with his oratory. He became one of a long line of Progressives/Liberals who firmly believed in the Imperial Presidency. George Washington had to be spining in his grave. Wilson believed that society was one organic whole without room for those who would not behave. The government's purpose was to control your private thoughts, your home, and everything else about the organic whole of society. The Constitution either had to adapt to the organic redeemer state or be cast aside. He demanded that artificial barriers in our antiquated system of checks and balances be dropped and mocked the Founding Fathers. He said that "living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of Life .... it must develop." In his essay Leaders of Men, Wilson said the true leader uses the masses like tools, whose passions must govern their actions, not their minds, so he must be a great demagogue. "Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader." Only very concrete concepts can impress their dull minds. When President, Wilson, as Roosevelt had before him, greatly expanded the role of government and of the Presidency, far beyond the bounds of the Constitution.

FDR continued this progression, but the later story will be developed later.

By this time in history, America is already well down the road to a "pragmatic" abrogation of the Constitution as the defining document of government and its powers. We no longer had a government of principle and principle was waning everywhere. Shortsighted pragmatism ruled the affairs of Americans in politics and government.

Our politicians sometimes led the ignorant masses to new socialist programs and sometimes they simply took advantage of the propaganda widely taught in the public government schools with their conflict of interest with respect to the expansion of government power. As education became weaker and weaker and individuals of strength became more rare, the masses were more easily duped and controlled by the leaders. Fancy, pleasant sounding names were put on bills passed in the legislature, which only the lobbyists had read and which accomplished nothing like what the name of the bill suggested. The people were so overwhelmed with a mass of bills and new laws that it became hopeless for them to keep up with what was going on. In time, it was also hopeless for the full-time politicians to keep up with what they were passing. The Congress and the President gave up one of the most important tasks they had in checks and balances by refusing to even consider if a bill was Constitutional. They left that task entirely to the Supreme Court. In the early days of the Republic, the usual reason a President vetoed a bill was because he thought it unconstitutional. But how else could he uphold his pledge to "faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

When the people had principles from the Constitution to judge whether a proposed law was within the bounds of government power, it was possible to relatively easily glean out those laws that did not match the very limited powers of government. As the general welfare became the only criterion used to determine the range of laws and powers, the socialist concept of the organic whole displaced the interests of the individual. Pragmatism made politics a game that people played for power and privilege. Public schools were designed to promote big government, to dumb down the population, and make its graduates part of the organic whole, while lacking individuality. This is how the people of the United States came to be ignorant, overwhelmed with new and old laws, pandered to by politicians, bilked by special interests, and generally clay in the hands of its pragmatic, unprincipled, demagogic leaders.

There is only one way out: A return to the clear principles of our Constitution which was designed to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the individual by carefully limiting the power of government to a few enumerated powers. Everything else can be managed within the free enterprise, free market system of voluntary action by many, many specialized and individualized Americans. Then we will have to review all of our laws and straighten them out.

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