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 intelligent and rational 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

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

25 October 2008

Choosing a President

Ask most people what criteria they use to choose a president and they will say something like:
  • He should be smart.
  • He should have experience.
  • He should look presidential by looking good and being self-assured.
  • He should make me feel comfortable and that I can trust him.
  • He should care about the people.
In reality these translate into:
  • He should not be really smart, because then he would not be like me, but the mainstream media should say he is smart.
  • He should have been busy creating coercive laws, but know nothing about business and running other voluntary organizations.
  • He should be a megalomaniac who is sure that he knows what is best for the rest of us and he should look like someone a good-looking woman might choose for sex.
  • He should have a silvery tongue and be able to convince me to follow him off a cliff.
  • He gives never-ending speeches claiming that he cares about people, but he gives money to special interests to get their vote and deprives everyone of their liberty.
Well, what should be the principle upon which a rational person would make his choice for president? It would be great if he were very smart, if he had real experience in living a happy and productive life, if he had self-confidence, but also understood that the job of the president is so overblown now that no one could perform that job well, that he has a clear understanding that he serves the people, and that he knows that the best way to care about them and to serve them is to govern in accordance with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But note that none of the other characteristics is really important and useful unless he will act as President in a manner consistent with his role as set out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If he is smart, but he uses his intelligence to consistently seek more power over the lives of individuals, then his intelligence is in the service of the Devil. The same is true if he looks presidential or has years of experience turning out coercive laws. If people think he cares about them because he makes promises that government will deliver goodies to them, then he is dangerous and will soon control us all by making us dependent upon his goodies and fearful of his taxes and service mandates. If he has a silvery tongue, this is also a great danger if he uses it toward evil goals.

The Declaration of Independence placed sovereignty for the first time squarely in the hands of the individual. The individual has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And, yes, to his property, which word was left out because it was clearly already covered by the given trilogy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration declared that just, legitimate government became so only if it served the people by protecting their individual sovereignty by ensuring their inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government and its leaders could and should be overthrown if they did not act in recognition of the inalienable rights of the individual, which all of the people enjoyed and which none of the people had to apply to government for. Their rights were inalienable and could not legitimately be denied by government.

The Constitution attempted to bring about the mechanisms of government which would help to direct government to fulfill its goal of protecting the individual's rights and thereby serving the sovereign people well. The Preamble sets this understanding up. It states that the Constitution is to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." The Constitution then embarks on enumerating a very carefully chosen list of powers held by the President, the Congress, and the Federal Courts. It is very obvious that these powers are very limited. Let us examine some of the powers that Congress was given:
  • To borrow money on the credit of the United States
  • To regulate commerce between the states, foreign nations, and the Indian tribes, where regulate meant to keep the states from interfering with free trade, as they had been doing.
  • To establish naturalization and bankruptcy rules.
  • To coin money and establish weights and measures.
  • To establish penalties for counterfeiting.
  • To establish post offices and post roads.
  • To provide for copyrights and patents.
  • To set up federal courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
  • To define and punish piracies and felonies on the high seas.
  • To declare war and make rules for captures.
  • To raise and support Armies.
  • To provide and maintain a Navy.
  • To provide for calling forth the Militia.
  • To tax for the purpose of performing the above powers. There was no implication that taxes could be levied and used for other purposes, though some soon claimed they could be and were opposed by such men as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison.
The President and every Congressman have a primary function of protecting the Constitution and its protections of the rights of the individual. The President is explicitly required to make the following oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will 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." Any president who does not do so is illegitimate and a threat to the inalienable rights of the individual and clearly subject to overthrow by our birth certificate, The Declaration of Independence. Therefore, the most central principle for choosing a president is clear: He must be the man who will do the best job of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States, whose central purpose is to honor the inalienable right of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by maintaining government's very limited scope of action and leaving as much as possible to the individual choice of those who are the people.

Many people opposed the idea of establishing a Bill of Rights, since they said that the powers of the Federal government were so limited that they could not be used to violate the rights of the individual. There was no need to declare a right to freedom of speech, since it was clear that the government was given no power to limit freedom of speech. In fact, when the decision was finally made to put together the Bill of Rights, one of the original amendments, Amendment IX, states "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This makes it very clear just how jealously the people claimed their inalienable individual rights!

Today, we should do no less. Today, we are much more threatened by illegitimate and overblown government than the colonies were by the government of King George III and a Parliament in which they had no representation. The actual encroachments upon the rights of the individual in the colonies were small compared to those we now experience in America. The level of taxation was microscopic compared to the present. The redistribution of wealth and the requirements for service were small in comparison. There are now many more limitations upon our right to lead productive and self-directed lives. We are allowed the freedom to make a much smaller fraction of our life choices now. The mere fact that a plurality of voters may choose to violate the Constitution and the rights of the individual does not lessen the horrible fact that the rights of the individual and his sovereignty are under brutal attack. This government, backed by this plurality of voters, is illegitimate.

Just as the most singly critical principle for choosing a President is whether he will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, so is that also the most important criterion for choosing any member of Congress. We do an awful job of choosing those people as well as choosing Presidents. The people we have chosen have proven very adept at violating our individual, inalienable rights. This is no surprise, given that few of us recognize the most important principle for choosing our President and our representatives in the House and Senate. Most people have richly earned the loss of their liberty, but they must be damned for also losing that of the few who deserved their liberty and for losing that liberty for our Posterity!

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