Contributed by: filbert Saturday, April 16 2011 @ 12:41 PM CST
. . .I’d like to talk about our nation’s current budget issues. You see, we face difficult times, and our noble president says that we are just going to need to give up just a little more.CLASSICAL LIBERALISM
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME, YOU STUPID LYING GREEDY SACK OF CRAP?
Government can’t balance a checkbook. They’re idiots. I know finance math. I do it for a living. And when I look at the numbers involved here, (and the interest!) it makes my head swim. Okay, for you non-accountants, when they start bandying numbers about on the news of 4 trillion such and such, and a hundred billion this and that, I know that your eyes glaze over. You think to yourself, “Oh, it is just the same old same old, bunch of politicians spending too much money, blah blah blah.”
Saying that this is the same old same old, is like saying that gophers digging up your lawn is the same level of disaster as Krakatoa. Over the last couple of years we’ve reached a whole new level of crazy. Our spending has gone insane. We’re spending more money, faster, than all of mankind, throughout all of recorded human history. Economists aren’t sure what’s going to happen, because this has never happened before. Ever. On Earth. We’ve strayed into strange new territory here and there are many possible outcomes if we don’t stray the hell back out. And don’t for a second think that any of those possible outcomes are remotely good. No. They range somewhere between the Great Depression and Mad Max.
This constitution in our American souls expressed itself in a small way recently in our expectation and gratification that members of Congress should take an oath to uphold the Constitution. This is an oath of fidelity to the Constitution, and not to us, the people. Our high regard for this oath, it seems to me, is the sovereign people’s way of telling our representatives that we expect you to be somewhat independent of us, that we think good government depends upon it.
Put simply, in our Constitution the branches are separate, but they are not equal: the vast preponderance of federal authority is delegated to Congress, which is without question the preeminent branch under the Constitution. One reason this may not be as obvious as it should be just by reading the Constitution is that, over the last fifty years, the separation of powers has tilted a bit out of constitutional balance. The presidential and judicial branches have become assertive and bold in articulating the national agenda, and Congress has largely deferred to this (or to the bureaucracy), sometimes in an effort to avoid difficult or potentially unpopular actions.
(Speaker Nancy Pelosi's) rhetorical question—“Are you serious?”—was, of course, meant not to begin but to end conversation. Such contemptuous dismissal of citizens’ serious concern about constitutionality made many voters indignant last November, and they carried their well justified indignation with them to the ballot box. The arrogant contempt continued in the sniffing dismissals that greeted the new Congress’s show of respect for the Constitution. This arrogance comes from a belief that is held to be unquestionable. This is the belief that the New Deal irrevocably transformed America into a country whose central government has the authority to address any social or economic problem, and to mandate or proscribe any individual conduct plausibly related to alleviating that problem. To the former Speaker and those who agree with her, it is preposterous—mind-boggling—that any 21st century American should presume to question this article of faith. The same arrogant incredulity struts and postures angrily in Wisconsin and Ohio and other states where public employee unions and their advocates in the media assert a right to collective bargaining that is somehow supposed to be regarded as sacred and beyond question.
It is true, as I remarked in my last letter, that with the entrenching and expanding of the New Deal and the Great Society, America has reached a point where “the federal government can do just about anything it wants, and can do it just about any way it wants.” Our progressive politicians and intellectuals insist that this condition is irreversible—beyond serious question. The movement of American politics over the past two years seems to be proving that this is not the case. And so the progressive insistence that the question is closed gets louder and more desperate. Just opening the question is a significant achievement, though it leaves much statesman’s work still to do—as Hamilton and Jefferson teach us. We can learn much from both of them as we continue to recover the kind of constitutional reasoning these letters hope to help restore to governing in our country.
Proclaiming that all men everywhere and at all times possess by nature equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the American founders undertook the historic effort to secure these rights, so far as they thought they could then be secured, to a small people at a particular place and time. They were acutely conscious of the limits of their ability to secure these rights. When they were able to establish a “more perfect union” they understood full well how far from perfection they remained. It was all the new republic could do in the first century of its existence to keep the American experiment in freedom from failing miserably at home while other less fortunate experiments struggled to give birth to freedom in other parts of the world.
In the course of its history, the American people have many times fallen beneath the high standards they set for themselves at the beginning. They have strayed from those principles, and they have forgotten them, and become confused about them, and allowed misunderstood self-interest to obscure them. Our own experience has confirmed for us that democracy requires more of its citizens than any other form of government and that it is no accident that history provides so few examples of successful and enduring democracies.
Our deliberations will be well served by reflecting that the American founders thought the best thing Americans could do for the rest of the world was to succeed in our own experiment in freedom. As the founders thought of it, the American cause—the cause of liberty— is the cause of mankind. If we could show by the success of our experiment that free government could be good government, this would be the greatest gift Americans could give to their fellow human beings—our own political well being would be a constant act of philanthropy. America’s success would be cause for all men to rejoice. By the same token, failure of the American experiment in freedom would “deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”
Madison argued that the great danger was a faction comprising a majority of the electorate – whether united by a sectional, commercial, or religious interest – because it could operate democratically, winning a series of free and fair elections, even while disdaining the concerns and curtailing the rights of all citizens not belonging to that faction. He was more sanguine about a faction comprising a minority of the citizenry, because, he thought, the majority would be able to “defeat its sinister views by regular vote,” rendering the faction “unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.”
Here Madison may have been too optimistic. The lessons of recent American politics suggest that minority factions can be more dangerous than he imagined. The modern phenomenon he failed to anticipate was a government entrusted with so many responsibilities, and so much power and money, that it becomes a faction unto itself, with its own passions and interests adverse to the rights of other citizens.
The number and complexity of the issues being managed by government, at all levels, reach a point where the regular vote of the majority no longer prevails against the government faction.
Government employees, protected by strong unions and formidable civil service rules, have become an especially powerful and, in many cases, especially dangerous faction.
Guaranteeing every state a republican form of government appears to be one of the Constitution’s less difficult assignments. The harder part is to make sure that American government at every level is republican not just in form but in content. Are the people’s elected representatives in charge of the government, or do life-tenured civil servants constitute a permanent government, one that can humor voters and legislators with token concessions, knowing it has all the expertise and time needed to out-maneuver and out-last intrusive voters and their representatives?
We know from the relentless demonstrations in the streets of the Wisconsin city named after James Madison that the permanent government will go to great lengths to defend its prerogatives. Will the citizenry do what is necessary to reclaim its sovereign control over the res publica – the matters that properly belong to the public?