The Continuing Relevance of the Founders

 

It is, to use one of President Obama’s more overwrought phrases, a “teachable moment.” To be sure, it is neither the lesson nor the moment he had in mind, but liberalism is nothing if not an ongoing tutorial in unintended consequences. Less than a fortnight after the President urged the American people to reject those who, as he disparagingly put it, “…warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner,” his administration proceeded to provide a taste of tyranny’s power and reach.

For his part, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough acknowledged that, “My argument is less persuasive today because of these scandals. People say, ‘Hey, if they do this with the IRS, asking people what books you read, then how can I trust them with information about my Second Amendment rights?'” On CNN, no less a champion of liberal causes than Piers Morgan conceded:

I’ve had some of the pro-gun lobbyists on here, saying to me, ‘Well, the reason we need to be armed is because of tyranny from our own government,’ and I’ve always laughed at them.  I said, ‘Don’t be so ridiculous, your own government won’t turn itself on you,’ but actually, this is vaguely tyrannical behavior by the American government. I think what the IRS did is bordering on tyrannical behavior. I think what the Department of Justice has done to the AP is bordering on tyrannical behavior.

Concerning which, a few observations:  

1.  The point many of us have been making is not, as the President so fatuously claimed, that “tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” Rather, ours is the historically incontrovertible position that, A) government is organically inclined to aggrandize power unto itself, and that, B) such aggrandizement, incremental though it may be, typically occurs at the expense of human freedom, sovereignty, and dignity.  

2.  When a government seeks out and punishes select citizens on the basis of their political beliefs using its most powerful, its most feared, and its most unaccountable enforcement agency, unashamedly and belligerently stating before the people’s elected representatives that it retains the legal prerogative to do so, that government is quickly growing out of control.

3.  When the acting chief of this tax collecting agency refuses to denounce his agency’s inquiries into the content of a private citizen’s prayers, we are entitled not only to observe that the government no longer works for the people, but to draw quite obvious conclusions on the wisdom of entrusting this agency or this government with our healthcare.

4.  When unprecedented intrusions on First Amendment protections of a free press are treated so cavalierly by an Attorney General who breezily testifies to his contented ignorance of it all, our concern over the security of the rest of the Bill of Rights is entirely justified.

5.  When the President voices his continued faith and confidence in this blissfully incurious and benighted Attorney General, we are right to be alarmed.

6.  When, in the midst of these fundamental transgressions on our liberty, the President departs to a campaign stop, from which remove he labels these assaults as “fleeting issue(s),” he betrays a disturbing indifference to such rights as he took an oath to uphold.

7.  In so doing, the President has not only underscored the folly of his earlier denunciation of those who remain skeptical of ever-expanding government; he has not just validated Lord Acton’s warning that,  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely;” but he has vividly re-certified the continuing relevance of America’s Founders.

8.  James Madison’s observation in Federalist 51 is as fresh and relevant as the morning’s headlines:  “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” And Thomas Jefferson appears to have read the Democratic Party’s platform when he advises that:

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on his ground: That all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people (10th Amendment).  To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible to any definition.

So while we welcome the epiphanies of Messrs Morgan and Scarborough, and hope they will hang around awhile and help the rest of us in a continuing defense of the Bill of Rights, along with the rest of the Constitution, it’s not an assurance we can “take to the bank,” as they say. The liberal infatuation with centralized authority runs deep, after all. From Franklin Roosevelt’s early admiration of Mussolini’s handiwork to the gushing praise of American progressives over Stalin’s governance (typified by Paul Robeson’s remark upon his return from a visit to the Soviet Union that, “From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet Government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!”), the liberal heart swoons to the siren song of paradise on earth and of human perfection, accomplished through the force of persuasion if possible, at the point of a gun if necessary.

“I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony,” goes the old Coca-Cola jingle.  The liberal, upon learning that not everyone wants to sing, and that perfect harmony is unachievable without total conformity to a prescribed sheet of music, goes from teaching to instructing. Individualism is at first discouraged, and then eventually rooted out as instruction yields to regulation. For those who still cling to their individual sovereignty, refusing to conform to the designs of the liberal maestro, harassment and coercion are the order of the day, resulting in headlines announcing the IRS’s tormenting of those who resist the designs of the state on their lives, beliefs, and property. It is all utterly predictable, utterly diabolical, and totally unfathomable to adherents of paternal government.  

It is likely only a matter of time before Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews, Dana Milbank, Piers Morgan, Joe Scarborough, the Associated Press and the rest make their prodigal way back to the welcoming arms of Barack Obama and his legions of government enthusiasts. Unfortunately, more epiphanies are coming, not the least of which will be the colossal train wreck of Obamacare.  When it is too late, perhaps a few of them will understand that the masterpiece of modern liberalism was unveiled long ago by Alexis de Tocqueville:

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @Ansonia

    Dave, I’m retyping this in larger print and sending it to people. I’m always grateful that you write.

    • #1
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    @BarbaraKidder

    You are, indeed, a modern-day Thomas Paine!

    • #2
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    @Macsen

    Mr. Carter, I cannot sufficiently express my admiration for your writing without lapsing into well-intentioned profanity (I am from NJ, after all), so I’ll just stop here. Good post.

    • #3
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    @Devereaux

    OK. So here we have a great, logical, factual presentation of concerns that all ought to have.

    ?Where are the liberals. ?How come they have so little to say about all this. It is, after all, their creation. They made all this government busy-body intrusion daily fare. They feel government is the solution to all problems, large and small. They “trust” government – to do the right thing, to be on their side, to “help” people.

    I am constantly reminded of Mr. Buckley’s wonderful comment, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” So perhaps we should follow Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s view of reporters. “If I killed them all, there’d be news from hell before breakfast.”

    • #4
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    @user_646399
    Devereaux:?Where are the liberals. ?How come they have so little to say about all this. It is, after all,their creation. 

    If liberals were at all empirical, they might have noticed that not one single program has ever solved the problem it was created to solve and gone out of existence. There is surely some probability that one program would have fixed one problem were such programs ever effective. Instead the volume of righteous indignation only increases on all fronts. They insist, and the MSM acquiesces, that they be judged by their ‘good’ intentions, never by results.

    Dave, this is a marvelous argument for small government. It should be required reading in state-run schools. Of course, were it detected in the possession of a student, he/she would be immediately suspended for thought crime on some pretext or other. Thank you!

    • #5
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    @AaronMiller

    Don’t worry. Republicans will demand consequences after a year or two of hearings. President Obama will be toothless by then, surely.

    Dave Carter

    It is likely only a matter of time before Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews, Dana Milbank, Piers Morgan, Joe Scarborough, the Associated Press and the rest make their prodigal way back to the welcoming arms of Barack Obama and his legions of government enthusiasts. 

    Agreed.

    Obama’s smart enough to know that they will go along with anything if they believe they are in the club of rulers. But is he prudent enough and humble enough to feign interest in them?

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    @StephenHall
    Barbara Kidder: You are, indeed, a modern-day Thomas Paine!

    I would like to propose a higher accolade. You are a modern day Edmund Burke.

    • #7
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    @Illiniguy

    Randy Barnett wrote in an article in the Tennessee Law Review that (in the context of advocating the repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments):

    “[T]he post-New Deal judiciary disagrees only on whether other unenumerated rights may also receive protection and, if so, which ones. But whatever few additional “fundamental” rights may be recognized, they do not include the protection of any so-called “economic liberty” that might inhibit the national regime of economic regulation…

    [T]the courts allow Congress to exercise unchecked power over the national economy and everything that may affect it, limited only by the express guarantees of the Bill of Rights…. The original scheme of islands of federal powers in a sea of liberty has been transformed into a regime of islands of rights in a vast sea of national power.”

    Federalist 84 argued against a Bill of Rights, saying that:

    “They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted… [I]t is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.”

    Our liberty hangs on a slender thread.

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    @NickStuart

    If demanding to know the contents of prayers is not intrusive enough, wait until the Secretary of HHS begins to exercise “tooth level surveillance ” (h/t to Mark Steyn who uses the tooth level surveillance line from time to time)

    • #9
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    @DaveCarter
    Illiniguy: Randy Barnett wrote in an article in the Tennessee Law Review that (in the context of advocating the repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments):

    [T]the courts allow Congress to exercise unchecked power over the national economy and everything that may affect it, limited only by the express guarantees of the Bill of Rights…. The original scheme of islands of federal powers in a sea of liberty has been transformed into a regime of islands of rights in a vast sea of national power.”

    Federalist 84 argued against a Bill of Rights, saying that:

    “They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted… [I]t is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.”

    Our liberty hangs on a slender thread. · 14 minutes ago

    Hence, the observation of Benjamin Franklin, among others, that the American system of government would be unsuitable to any but a virtuous people.  

    • #10
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    @KCMulville

    As I say, Dave, when you write a bad piece, that’ll be news.

    Well done.

    • #11
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    @DaveCarter
    Stephen Hall

    Barbara Kidder: You are, indeed, a modern-day Thomas Paine!

    I would like to propose a higher accolade. You are a modern day Edmund Burke. · 24 minutes ago

    Edited 24 minutes ago

    Oh heavens no!  I’m a retired NCO, and an American trucker from the bayous of Louisiana, who has been privileged to breathe deeply the sweet air of freedom and recognizes that it doesn’t come cheap.  

    • #12
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    @DaveCarter

    I hate to post, comment, and run,…but I’m trying desperately to get to the next Ricochet meet-up in Seattle on the 23d.  I need to make it to western Nebraska today.  I’ll check in later, but in the meantime, please feel free to mingle….

    • #13
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    @ColinBLane

    Dave, you obviously haven’t read The New York Times take on the IRS scandal today. Good news: it wasn’t political at all. The problem was simply an “understaffed Cincinnati outpost that was alienated from the broader I.R.S. culture and given little direction.” So to @Devereaux’s question “where are the liberals?” they’re busy directing traffic: Nothing to see here. Move along.

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    @StephenHall

    I love the way Sarah Hall Ingram (in charge of the IRS persecutions of conservative groups) has been promoted to run the IRS department dealing with Obamacare. You couldn’t make up this stuff. 

    The US grows daily more like a banana republic.

    • #15
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    @ChrisCampion

    Copy/Paste, then change the font size.

    Ansonia: Dave, I’m retyping this in larger print and sending it to people. I’m always grateful that you write. · 2 hours ago

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    @ChrisCampion

    Whew!  That’s a relief.  Great news from the NYT to set our troubled minds at ease.

    If that’s a NYT quote, the author and editor should get shoved down a flight of stairs.  It’s not an “outpost”, it’s the central processing office for those specific types of organizations that were targeted.  They’re promulgating the idea, the same idea that had a Major Hassan terrorist attack get labeled as workplace violence, that there was nothing political about the events that occurred.  Nothing at all.

    Just like Benghazi.

    Colin B Lane: Dave, you obviously haven’t read The New York Times take on the IRS scandal today. Good news: it wasn’t political at all. The problem was simply an “understaffed Cincinnati outpost that was alienated from the broader I.R.S. culture and given little direction.” So to @Devereaux’s question “where are the liberals?” they’re busy directing traffic: Nothing to see here. Move along. · 32 minutes ago

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    @BrentB67

    The saddest part of this is how we have no organized opposition to the centralized tyranny outside of the Tea Party.

    If someone puts their faith in the Republican Party to rectify this they deserve the tyranny that will be wrought from such misplaced trust.

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    @CrowsNest
    Chris Campion:….that there was nothing political about the events that occurred.  Nothing at all.

    Just like Benghazi. · 4 minutes ago

    Goldberg’s Tyranny of Cliches is useful here. The spokespeople propagating that storyline may honestly believe that they have no ideology. That they are just pragmatists.

    Those who are less naive know better.

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    @CrowsNest

    Oh, and excellent post, Dave. Quite right that the Founder’s insights are not confined or relative merely to their own time, but to ours as well. 

    • #20
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    @DocJay

    BrentB67, there’s no worse place in hell than that of elected leaders who feign indignation but then turn their back on these scandals based on their own self interests.

    Travel safely Dave. Honk if you pass through Northern Nevada.

    • #21
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    @Trink
    Aaron Miller: 

    Dave Carter

    “Obama . . . .But is he prudent enough and humble enough to feign interest in them?” · 2 hours ago

    BaracKaa will seduce and cajole his media lapdogs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1ILPl5FQaM

    • #22
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    @RushBabe49

    As the organizer of the Seattle Meetup next week, I am HONORED, HONORED, to have Dave as part of our little group (11 so far, including myself and hubby).  I am just blown away by his perfect communication skills.  I bow at the feet of the most humble Master.

    • #23
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    @ChrisCampion

    Completely.  The party is a group of co-opted clowns.  I wanted to say “sluts” here, but thought that might be tasteless.

    BrentB67: The saddest part of this is how we have no organized opposition to the centralized tyranny outside of the Tea Party.

    If someone puts their faith in the Republican Party to rectify this they deserve the tyranny that will be wrought from such misplaced trust. · 1 hour ago

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    @Trink

    Why do we not hear voices . . . words . .  truths . . like Dave’s – from the lecterns of Congress?

    Why?

    • #25
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    @AaronMiller

    Speaking of the Founder’s relevance, does anyone believe they would have put up with the legal farce that is Obamacare?

    The way in which Obamacare was passed violated no law. It did, however, violate the essential principle of democratic government: consent of the governed. We the people do not authorize our legislators to pass legislation without even knowing what it is. The Founders did not write that into the Constitution because they never dreamed something so obvious would need to be spelled out in law.

    Refuse to submit that new Obamacare form next year with your taxes. Do not count on legislators to address a pre-legal issue.

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    @RushBabe49

    [Refuse to submit that new Obamacare form next year with your taxes. Do not count on legislators to address a pre-legal issue.]

    I have already decided to do just that.  No more e-file for us.  Print out all forms and mail, sans the “Obamacare” form.  I believe, however, that this will not be necessary until 2015, when filing your 2014 taxes.

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    @SimonTemplar

    The subversives worship Obama, their Prince of Darkness.  I pray to God for a conservative Moses to arise before it is too late and deliver the followers of the Light from statist bondage.

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    @Nealfred

    All good points I’ve decided that if he doesn’t get impeachedThat would be the best of worlds Otherwise I’m ignoring him except for entertainment purposes

    • #29
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    @Yeahok

    Obama created a bunch of czars, isn’t it about time for some purges?

    • #30

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