Category Archives: Federalism

McConnell talks about the path to tyranny

One of today’s top headlines:

McConnell: Health Care Reform Leads America On A Path To Tyranny

McConnell’s actual statement:

“By preventing the accumulation of excessive power, the Constitution is designed to reduce the risk of tyranny or abuse at either the Federal or state levels,” McConnell told the audience of conservative legal scholars. “The health care bill would remove an important bulwark of this protection.”

Wouldn’t it be great if somebody wrote a book about this? Maybe he could call this book The Path to Tyranny.

Congrats GOP. Now what do we do?

Congratulations to the GOP. They accomplished a historic election victory. The largest change in government since 1948.

However, I continue to fear for this country. Not because of the politicians, but because of the people. Of the 40-50% of those eligible to vote who actually voted, how many voted for liberty and limited government? The GOP won about 54% of the total vote, so maybe 54%. Maybe more, maybe less. But considering the majority of people didn’t even bother to vote, you are looking at a very small portion of the population who understands and cares enough to vote in favor of liberty and limited government. The number is 30% of the population, at best. Probably closer to 25% or even lower.

That is a very disappointing figure. While we must be involved in the political system, that will only help us on the margin. If 25% of the population supports limited government, nominating attractive candidates may boost that to 26% or 27%. Enough to temporarily defeat the political opponent, but not enough to fundamentally change our country.

The only long-term solution is education. We need to further the ideas of liberty, limited government, and checks and balances.We need to read, we need to write, and we need to share. With Amazon.com and social media, we have the tools to spread the knowledge. All it takes it effort.

So, now that the election is over, we have three main jobs:

  1. Make sure that government officials from both parties work toward smaller government.
  2. Begin recruiting for the next election.
  3. Educate ourselves and the public as to the benefits of limited government and checks and balances as described by our Constitution and elaborated upon in the Federalist Papers.

As you know, I’ll be focusing on the third item. I’ve already written one book warning the people of the evils of big government and the democratic demand for free gifts from the government. Many of you already know that I am working on a second book, the topic of which has not yet been announced. I have many more books planned, each of which advances the cause of liberty.

But while I will concentrate on the education portion, I will not be ignoring the first two parts. I will remain active in the political arena to ensure our governments (federal, state, and local) limit their size and scope and to help choose future candidates for political office.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. It has taken 100 years for our government to go from a very minor portion of our society to the huge behemoth it is today. It may take 100 years to reverse what has been done and we may not be alive to see our success. But succeed we must for the fate of our country and the world depend on us.

Eleftheria i thanatos!

Americans think politicians are corrupt. That’s why the Founders gave us a constitutional republic.

In a recent poll, Americans said they blame politicians and not the system:

Optimism about the American system of government is at a 36-year low, yet most Americans blame the people in office — not the system itself — for all that’s going wrong, according to a new ABC News/Yahoo! News poll.

While I agree that politicians are corrupt, I don’t agree that this is the problem we are now facing. The real problem is the system of government we have. We have left our the republican roots of our Constitution and become too democratic.

If you study the history of free society and its descent, you will see one corrupt politician after another. You will discover the demagogues of ancient Greece, the tyrants of Rome, the totalitarians of the twentieth century, and the many corrupt politicians in our own history.

Our Founding Fathers knew that we too would have our fair share of corrupt politicians, just as all societies do. Not trusting government to corrupt, power-hungry men, the Founders established a constitutional republic for us in which “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” [Madison. Federalist #51.]

In ancient Rome, there were three power centers: the people, the aristocracy, and the monarchy. Rome balanced these three powers with the people, often called the mob, the Senate representing the aristocracy, and the magistrates acting similar to monarchs.

Our Founders created a similar balance between the three. The House of Representatives are the people. The Senate is the aristocracy as they were originally chosen by the states, not directly elected. And the President acts like a monarch, especially in war time when he is very similar to the temporary dictators of ancient Rome.

The Founders also established a balance of powers between the federal government and the states, designed to prevent either one from becoming too powerful:

This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will  both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them. [Hamilton speech to New York Ratifying Convention]

Few today would argue that the states act as a check on the power of the federal government. With the power of the military, federal court system, and printing press (enabling federal government to spend nearly unlimited amounts of money whereas states can’t print money to pay off debts), states are powerless to stop any federal tyranny.

Additionally, in 1913 the Seventeenth Amendment provided for direct election of Senators. Prior to that, Senators were elected by their state legislatures. Not only did this direct election reduce the power of the states even further, it also removed the Senate’s aristocratic nature and made it democratic, little different from the House of Representatives.

Thus, the balance of powers has been severely weakened as the states can no longer check the federal government and the Senate has become another tool of the power. In effect, we have become a federal democracy.

Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. [Madison. Federalist #10.]

It should be no surprise then that we are now living in such turbulent times.

Enumerated Powers Amendment for the Constitution

In addition to repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments and getting rid of the Federal Reserve (all of which began in 1913), I propose this new Amendment:

The federal government shall have no powers beyond those specifically enumerated in the Constitution or absolutely required for the enforcement of those enumerated powers.

The general welfare and commerce clauses do not give the federal government any powers beyond those specifically expressed elsewhere in the Constitution.

All commitments and liabilities of the United States must be honored and paid out either immediately or in their due course. No new commitments or liabilities from unconstitutional programs may be added after the ratification of this amendment.

If anybody has suggestions to improve this amendment, feel free to comment below or email me from the contact page.

Are individual states following Europe down into the debt crisis?

While the United States appears to be safe from the sovereign debt crisis hitting Europe, at least for now, individual states may be following Europe down the hole. In fact, some states may even be leading the way. According to Bloomberg:

Illinois capital-markets director John Sinsheimer and Citigroup Inc. bankers took a globe-girdling trip from the U.K. to China in June to persuade investors that the state’s $900 million of Build America Bonds were a bargain.

The seven-country visit worked. The state sold one-fifth of the federally subsidized securities abroad the next month, tapping investors who are the fastest-growing source of borrowed cash for U.S. municipalities. Illinois, with the lowest credit rating of any state from Moody’s Investors Service, dangled yields higher than Mexico, which defaulted on debt in 1982, and Portugal, which costs more to insure against missed payments.

Somehow, I didn’t see this story on the front page of the newspaper or on the evening news. As the whole world focuses “basket-case” countries like Portugal and Mexico, some of our own states have lower credit ratings and are paying higher interest rates as a result. Illinois is, of course, much smaller than Mexico but it’s about the same size as Portugal. The two are actually quite similar from a political-economic standpoint. Illinois is part of a larger union, the United States, while Portugal is part of the European Union. Neither controls is own currency and neither can devalue its currency to forestall default. It remains to be seen if the EU would bail out Portugal were it to face default and it also remains to be seen if the US would bail out Illinois or other states were it to be in the same situation.

I am not yet proposing that Illinois is as much of a risk to the global financial system as Portugal. But rating agencies and investors already see Illinois as more likely to default on its debt. Yet the media and politicians are covering up this story, pretending that things are good here in the US when they are far from.

My Totally Biased Required Reading List for Lovers of Liberty

The Federalist Papers: The best description of the principles of liberty and how to apply them.

The Road to Serfdom: Explanation of how big government leads to tyranny.

The Path to Tyranny: Show how big government has historically led to tyranny.

Atlas Shrugged: Shows what the consequences of government intervention on the American economy.

Please suggest other “Required” books in the comments.

Eliminate the Electoral College? The coming tyranny of the majority.

Many states are currently working to eliminate the electoral college and replace it with a straight democratic election of the President. This articles sums up the situation nicely.

Instead of writing new material here, I will quote from my own book, The Path to Tyranny.

On the benefits of the electoral college:

The Founding Fathers saw the benefits of keeping the three branches of government as independent of each other as possible. They therefore created the electoral college to choose the President. Instead of directly electing the President with majority rule or allowing Congress to select the President, each state held a number of “electoral votes” equal to its number of House and Senate seats. Originally, the candidate with the most votes became President and the person with the second most votes became Vice President. After the election of 1800, when no candidate received a majority and it took the House thirty-six ballots to elect Thomas Jefferson, the Twelfth Amendment altered the system so that votes for President and Vice President would be separate. Also in the original system, the electors were chosen by the states and those electors then decided which candidate to vote for. But the people began demanding that the electors vote for a specific candidate, so now the people vote for a Presidential candidate and the electors from each state are pledged to vote for that candidate. This system makes the President totally independent of Congress because they have no say in his election, except in the rare situation in which no person receives a majority of electoral votes, which last occurred in 1824. Additionally, because a candidate becomes President by winning the most electoral votes, even if he does not win a majority of the popular vote, he is somewhat independent of the people, as well. In this way, the President represents the entire country and not Congress, a single state or region, or even the majority of people over the minority.

Replacing the electoral college with a more democratic system is exactly what the Founders hoped to avoid. The Founders created a republic, but we’ve been becoming more democratic with time thanks to the increasing use of ballot initiatives at the state and local levels and with passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, providing for the direct election of Senators.

Here are some quotes from The Path to Tyranny warning about the evils of democracy:

  • Aristotle calls democracy a perversion of constitutional government in the interest of the needy.[Aristotle, Politics Book 3 Part 7.] In ancient Greece, this democracy often led to tyranny, not just of the majority, but also to tyranny of a single ruler chosen by the majority to lead them.
  • “Now the first of these to come into being is monarchy, its growth being natural and unaided; and next arises kingship derived from monarchy by the aid of art and by the correction of defects. Monarchy first changes into its vicious allied form, tyranny; and next, the abolishment of both gives birth to aristocracy. Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy; and when the commons inflamed by anger take vengeance on this government for its unjust rule, democracy comes into being; and in due course the licence and lawlessness of this form of government produces mob-rule to complete the series.” [Polybius, The Histories 6.4.7-13.]
  • The key, therefore, to maintaining peace, prosperity, freedom, and stable government is to create a system balancing monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, each with checks on the other two. But as power was being distributed downward to the people, Polybius warned that giving the people too much power would result in mob rule followed by a new tyranny: “And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch.”[Polybius, The Histories 6.9.7-9.]
  • The term “tyranny of the majority” originated with Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. (Tocqueville, Democracy in America 292.) However, Polybius, the Greek historian who lived from 203-120 BC, used the expression “cheirokratia,” loosely translated as “mob rule,” to describe this unlimited direct democracy, arguing that mob rule was a result of “the licence and lawlessness” of democracy. (Polybius, Histories 6.4.9.)
  • This second principle is in many ways a contradiction of his first principle. The first includes “all to rule and be ruled in turn” whereas the second is “to be ruled by none.” The first says “the majority must be supreme” whereas second says “a man should live as he likes.” The first principle leads to the tyranny of the majority whereas the second results in anarchy. It is only by balancing the two principles that a free society can be maintained without falling into tyranny or anarchy.
  • Plato warned about the evils of democracy from its birth to its death. He argues that, from the start, democracy involves killing and exiling its enemies. “And a democracy, I suppose, comes into being when the poor, winning the victory, put to death some of the other party, drive out others, and grant the rest of the citizens an equal share in both citizenship and offices.”[Plato, Republic 557a.]
  • The result of this democratic uprising, Plato argues, is anarchy, mockingly calling democracy “a delightful form of government, anarchic and motley, assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequals alike!”[Plato, Republic 558c.] But he contends that the end of democracy is tyranny as demagogues prey on the people’s lust for wealth. “Well, then, the insatiate lust for wealth and the neglect of everything else for the sake of money-making was the cause of its undoing.”[Plato, Republic 562b.] Plato insists that this “climax of popular liberty… is attained in such a city when the purchased slaves, male and female, are no less free than the owners who paid for them.”[Plato, Republic 563b.] “And so the probable outcome of too much freedom is only too much slavery in the individual and the state… from the height of liberty, I take it, the fiercest extreme of servitude.”[Plato, Republic 564a.]
  • The desire for more democracy and larger, more centralized government has turned what once was a laissez-faire representative government into a large interventionist government.
  • The United States was fortunate that its Founding Fathers were so well versed in political philosophy and history. They understood that they had to design a system with checks and balances between the different branches of government and between the states and federal government. They knew that both centralized power and unfettered democracy led to tyranny and hoped to limit the power of government. At the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton said, “We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”
  • More than two thousand years ago, the Greeks and Romans wrote about the evils of democracy, as did the Founding Fathers just two hundred years ago. James Madison writes in Federalist No. 10, “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Nevertheless, Americans have ignored these warnings and history’s examples. Since the adoption of the Constitution, the United States has trended toward more democracy, exemplified by the direct election of Senators and increased use of referendum and initiative. One effect of this democracy has been the growing demand for the government to provide for the people.
  • The Founding Fathers warned about the evils of democracy. Today the politicians and special interest groups use propositions to trick the voters into constantly growing government. We have to rid ourselves of the democracy in our midst and return to our republican roots.

Civil Disobedience by the States by becoming Sanctuary States

In a previous post, I wrote “It is time for civil disobedience by the states.” The post was directly addressing Arizona’s immigration law.

Now, the Obama administration is stating that its problem with Arizona’s law is that it “actively interferes with federal law.” On the other hand, the Department of Justice has said it will not prosecute sanctuary cities because they are only passively ignoring federal law. The exact quote:

“There is a big difference between a state or locality saying they are not going to use their resources to enforce a federal law, as so-called sanctuary cities have done, and a state passing its own immigration policy that actively interferes with federal law,” Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., told The Washington Times. “That’s what Arizona did in this case.”

Republican lawmakers immediately saw the problem with such an approach:

“For the Justice Department to suggest that they won’t take action against those who passively violate the law –who fail to comply with the law — is absurd,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and chief author of the 1996 immigration law. “Will they ignore individuals who fail to pay taxes? Will they ignore banking laws that require disclosure of transactions over $10,000? Of course not.”

Maybe there are individuals brave enough and crazy enough to test the DOJ’s new stance on not prosecuting those who passively ignore federal law, but the DOJ spokesperson actually said “state or locality,” not individuals, so the DOJ could still go after individual violators.

So I again call on the states to disobey the federal government. We can start with the many unfunded mandates the federal government imposes on the states, most especially the new ones that will appear as part of the recently passed health care reform.

If you are a governor who believes in liberty and the Constitution, please announce that your state will become a “sanctuary state” from socialized health care and will not enforce the new health care laws within your state.

Federal Government Boycotts Arizona. Time to Return the Favor!

Foxnews.com reports:

Two federal agencies have joined the “boycott Arizona” trend and nixed conferences there out of concern over the state’s immigration law, a Democratic Arizona congresswoman said, calling the development “very troubling.”

Any cancellations by the Department of Education and the U.S. Border Patrol may have been more out of a desire to steer clear of controversy than outright protest of the law. But Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who has written to dozens of cities and groups in a campaign to persuade them to end their boycotts, said it was disturbing to learn that the federal government would withdraw from the state over the issue.

If the federal government feels it is appropriate to boycott Arizona, Arizona should boycott the federal government in return. Earlier this week, I called for civil disobedience by the states. Arizona should now do all it can to recover the losses from the canceled conferences. Arizona should sue the federal government for violating Article I Section 9 of the Constitution. Arizona should also sue for slander and libel because of the lost business which was the direct result of the federal government’s attacks against Arizona’s anti-immigration bill.

Arizona should also mention “secession” as a possibility. Arizona has no interest in seceding, but the threat will show the Feds that Arizona is serious. Many states have already mentioned the secession possibility, so Arizona will join a growing crowd of states.

When the federal government no longer represents the people, we need the states to represent us. When they fail to do so, we need to take to the streets. The tea party movement began the street campaign long ago. The states now need to assert their proper role in our federalist system. I am proud that Arizona is leading the fight against the growing collectivism of the federal government.

It is time for civil disobedience by the states

As we learned with the Civil War, states cannot simply secede from the union or nullify federal law. However, they can take a page from Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi by simply refusing to enforce federal law.

The federal government itself is selective in which federal laws it enforces. For years, the feds have ignored their own immigration laws. Now, some states, most notably my home state of Arizona, are trying to enforce those laws and the Obama administration is trying to stop them.

If non-enforcement is legal and laudatory, the states should do so as well. Many states have already said they will not enforce the new health care reform bill. California has legalized many forms of drugs that are banned by the federal government. Technically, federal law still applies, but the states choose not to enforce them. Thus, if the federal government puts out a warrant for an individual who failed to comply with the health care law, the state law enforcement agencies could choose to ignore the warrant.

Of course, this situation is far from ideal. It would create chaos and uncertainty, but that is far preferable to the certainty of centralized control and tyranny.

On an individual basis, we are already seeing this civil disobedience. Millions buy goods over the Internet without paying sales tax. Legally, if the Internet retailer does not charge it, it is still the individual’s responsibility to pay it to the state. But nobody does and many buy online to avoid the sales tax and, thus, save money.

Additionally, the American people, by and large, are already “going Galt,” meaning they cut back on the hours worked to give less money to the government. Why work extra hard to have most of the money confiscated by the government and given to those who do not work? Why save and live below your means when you can go deep in debt and then get a government bailout or “government loan modification?”

Along the same line of “going Galt,” our high rates of taxation have also given a huge boost to “do it yourself.” See this post!

In a democratic system, the majority can always vote to take from the minority to give to the majority. The United States has left its republican roots (small government, rule of law, indirect elections) and become more democratic (direct election of Senators, ballot propositions, poll watching). Now that we are a democracy, the liberal/socialist/union/bureaucratic wing finds ways to create a majority of “takers” to elect them into office. Voting them out, permanently, has become impossible. We can overthrow them for an election cycle, maybe even a generation, but the left-wingers always reappear in some new disguise.

It is time to take more permanent action. Conservative states have to lead this effort. They have to oppose federal law through the courts and through non-enforcement. Individuals can go Galt and avoid paying taxes, but risk being sent to jail or having liens put on their property. States though have little to risk by opposing the federal government. A state cannot be put in jail. Fund can be denied it, but that is unlikely and is likely to further calls for secession.

I look to the states to lead us back to republicanism and federalism. And I look to the individual to vote for and defend the Constitution from the always growing federal government, from the many complicit state governments, and from the large population of people who vote themselves benefits at the expense of others.