04 July 2012

A Monument to America’s Destruction

In gradual transformations, it is generally difficult to pinpoint one particular event that signals the exact moment of change from one state to another. When did the last ice age become a period of warming? Which individual was the last Homo habilis or the very first Homo sapiens? On what day did Renaissance music become Baroque? 

That being said, it is possible to point to an event that indicates with certainty that the transformation has already occurred sometime in the past. When we look back at the Roman Empire, for instance, we can point to many indicators of a civilization in decline: the succession of “barracks emperors” in the 3rd century, the split of the empire under Diocletian, the sacking of Rome itself in 410 and 455, etc. But when Odovacer deposed Romulus Augustulus in 476, the meaning was clear: the present continuous tense—declining—had unambiguously given way to the simple past tense: declined. Rome was no more—and had not been for some time.

Such is the case with last week’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.” The lesson of this historical ruling is that it is no longer valid to discuss how America is in the process of changing from a free country to something else entirely. The change has already occurred; it is in the past—the long past, perhaps. 

It is now crystal clear to me that the United States, which began as a constitutional republic based upon individual liberty, is now nothing of the sort.

The Founding Fathers saw men as sovereign, independent individuals, with the right to their lives, the product of their efforts, and the liberty to pursue their own happiness. (This being Independence Day as I publish this, let us commemorate the fact that this unprecedented and unrepeated moral declarationthat every man should be allowed to selfishly pursue his own material and spiritual valueswas adopted by the Continental Congress 236 years ago today.) Men were viewed as productive, responsible citizens whose only requirement from the government was to be left alone to exercise their judgment, trade voluntarily with their neighbors, and be permitted to succeed or fail, reaping the rewards or paying the price accordingly.

Today’s federal government, along with a corrupt intellectual establishment and accommodating media, now hold man in the exact opposite regard. Men, in their view, are incompetent, dependent children who need the government to provide every conceivable material good and service.

The very relationship between the government and the citizens has been flipped on its head. The United States government began two centuries ago as a servant of its citizens, engaged to wield power only to protect the liberty of individuals. Today, we are the servants, and the government, in its self-proclaimed benevolent wisdom, pushes us, pulls us, scolds us, punishes us, advances the myth of its own greatness, trumpets the miracle of turning gold into paper, and assumes the responsibility of living our lives. Incredibly, in the Land of Freedom and Independence, almost everyone todaynot just politicians and the leftist media, but even ordinary citizensvaguely assumes the proper job of the government is to “run things.”

Among the consequences of this complete transformation of our nation is the fact that the United States Constitution no longer has any meaning whatsoever. The Constitution was originally intended to constrain the government, not citizens. It is now wielded as a legal justification of violating the rights it was designed to protect. 

When they assume office, the president, senators, representatives, and Supreme Court justices all swear to uphold the Constitution. Nevertheless, it is patently obvious that few take this responsibility seriously. The legislative and executive branches brazenly pass and sign any damned law that they please, presumably with the assumption that the Supreme Court will catch anything that happens to be unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, cowed and ruled by the leftist establishment (and lately, by veiled threats from the President[1]), defers to the elected representatives of the people.[2] So, with each branch of government assuming someone else is guarding the Constitution, who is left the save the rule of law?

It is all a moot point anyway because as I’ve already stated, the Constitution has been gutted of any significant meaning. The determination of “constitutionality” has been rendered a procedural issue, not a matter of principle. 

The only rational purpose of having a constitution in the first place is to establish a guiding principle as the rule of lawnot just any principle, but the single objectively valid one: the principle of individual rights. With this principle discarded as it has been, the Constitution is an empty shelland a dangerous one at that. The document still carries the authority of the honorable purpose it once fulfilled, but is shorn of that purpose. It is raw power, stripped of its soul: an unlimited force turned upon the very masterthe peopleit was instituted to protect.

The Roberts court has shown that anything is constitutional. American citizens can be forced to do anything (or not to do anything) as long as legislators comply with a means acceptable to the court—for example, to call the compulsion a “tax.” It is worthwhile examining an excerpt of the Supreme Court decision to see the nature of Roberts’ reasoning:
Chief Justice Roberts concluded in Part III-A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of the Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause . . . Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.

So far, so good. However, because the Commerce Clause does not give Congress these vast powers:
It is necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” . . . Because “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality,” Hooper v. California, . . . the question is whether it is “fairly possible” to interpret the mandate as imposing such a tax.[C, emphasis mine]

So, it is clear even to Justice Roberts that the individual mandate constitutes a “new and potentially vast domain” of congressional power. He sees this, however, not as a reason to protect us from this outrageous violation but to bend over backwards trying to excuse the power grab itself! Is his obligation as a Supreme Court justice to safeguard the liberties of Americans? No. He explicitly states that his duty is to save the statutes handed down by Congressto resort to any “reasonable construction” (which means, to invent any semi-plausible excuse) to save the mandates of legislators who have unquenchable appetites for power from being deemed unconstitutional. If you needed evidence that the Constitution has been thoroughly voided of first principles and remains nothing but an empty web of rules and procedures, you could hardly do better than NFIB v. Sebelius.

This is what passes as freedom today. We are “free” not to buy health insurance—under penalty of a tax. What is next? Perhaps someday soon we will be “free” (under penalty of tax) to choose our own doctor instead of one assigned by the government, or “free” (under penalty of tax) to buy a 32-ounce soda . . . or not to buy a Chevy Volt, or “free” (under penalty of tax) to vote or not to vote,[3] or “free” (under penalty of tax) to home-school our children, or “free” (under penalty of tax) to own a gun, or “free” (under penalty of tax) not to contribute to President Obama’s re-election campaign for his third, fourth, and fifth terms. Perhaps someday I will be “free” to write articles such as this one, as long as I pay the “sedition tax.” Families who pay the “burden-to-society tax” will be “free” to have a third child, and those few who can afford the “international good will tax” will be free to leave the country for a few days, assuming the proper collateral and hostages have been secured to encourage their return. 

How did we get here? How did the Land of Liberty become the Land of Liberty Lost? To answer, you need not look beyond Obamacare. You will hear apologists for the “individual mandate” make the claim that it is not unprecedented, but is merely an extension of current practices such as the mandatory auto insurance required by certain states; furthermore, it is already within the power of Congress to tax, and “the payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance.”[4] And in any case, they will say, the surrender of a little liberty is a small price to pay to overhaul a “broken” health care system. 

This is precisely the logic that has doomed us and will continue to do so unless we challenge it. This is the pattern with which the power of government increases without limit: the existence of rights-violating laws is presented as justification to pass more outrageous violations, and the very problems created by layers upon layers of government intrusions serve as the the pretext for more intrusions.

Why are Americans, historically the most valiant defenders of liberty, so compliant and apathetic? Does honor and valor misidentify evil when it confronts us in a form banal, undistinguished, habitual? Does our gaze, by long habit cast upwards toward that promising horizon we call the Future, overlook the stooped and hideous figures to our left and right cheerlessly imploring us to sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice our personal freedom because our humble leaders know best how to serve the “common good”? Is it possible that we have surrendered our liberties precisely because the bloated monstrosity that is the federal government presents itself not as a jack-booted thug barking orders (which we would swat away righteously), but as a third-rate bureaucrat droning on and on in an endless monotone of legalese?

I ask: Is our country, that political jewel of mankind (I am tempted to say “miracle” were it not for the fact that our nation was founded not upon superstition but upon the sublime, practical, worldly, and rational principles of the Enlightenment)is that republic known as the United States of America, a nation that would stand erect against any tidal wave, to be eroded by the drip, drip, drip of small compromises? 

A Monument to America’s Destruction: Obamacare, Medicare, Anti-Trust, Social Security

I have come to the conclusion, probably much later than I should have, that freedom is no longer something that must be preserved. It is too late for that. “Preserved” implies that there exists enough of an understanding of freedom for it to be saved, and I don’t believe that to be the case. No, freedom must be discovered anew, as if for the first time. 

To be sure, we are not yet in a dictatorship. (If you are reading these words without fear of being discovered, it proves we have not yet sunk that low.) But last week’s Supreme Court decision has extended extraordinary license to executive and legislative fiends who were already uninhibited in their lust for power, a move that will hasten America’s decline.

I urge every American: first discover and then declare your independence. Regard your “fellow men” not as a needy collective to which you owe the dutiful sacrifice of your lives, but as individuals who inalienably bear the same rights you do, and with whom you may deal with voluntarily and peaceably as you so choose. Above all, accept the responsibilities that independence entails: think, judge, and act for yourself. Have the courage to emancipate yourself from the alleged “safety net” of the welfare state, and respect your neighbors enough to trust that they too can stand on their own. We need a new revolution, a revolution not of force and blood and violence, but of the mind: a moral revolution, in which we each stand on our own, proudly and righteously and unafraid, asserting our right to be free from the government coercion that is suffocating us. Do it now, before it is too late. As Ayn Rand said, “Those who fight for the future, live in it today.”  

[1] See, for instance, Doug Bandow’s article, “Constitutional Death for Obamacare? The Left Threatens John Roberts And The Supreme Court,” in Forbes magazine, http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2012/05/28/constitutional-death-for-obamacare-the-left-threatens-john-roberts-and-the-supreme-court/, and Jeff Harding’s article, “Obama Threatens Supreme Court,” at The Daily Capitalist, http://dailycapitalist.com/2012/04/03/obama-threatens-supreme-court/.

Also, recall President Obama’s open criticism of the Supreme Court (for its 5-4 decision defending free speech during election campaigns) in his State of the Union speech a couple of years ago.

[2] See a good article on this topic at the Liberty Legal Foundation: “Supreme Court’s Deference to Congress Equals Disrespect to the Constitution,” http://libertylegalfoundation.org/1203/supreme-courts-deference-to-congress-equals-disrespect-to-the-constitution/

[3] Lest you think the litany of horrors in this paragraph are paranoid ravings that could never happen, I recommend watching this short clip (http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-cycle/47984748#47984748) from an MSNBC program called The Cycle. In the video, a group of well-groomed (and in all outward respects, civilized) MSNBC commentators discuss, without a shred of irony or satire, the directions in which these new-found, Roberts-sanctioned government powers ought to be aimed to shackle and throttle Americans more than they already are. “Soooo,” croons a beautiful brunette with a disarming smile, in a sweet tone that suggests she was about to ask you to buy her a drink, “what else should we force people to do?” 


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