I realized after posting the lengthy comment copied below that I had basically written another blog post. I’m not going to bother cleaning it up or adding points to make it more comprehensive. Spurring the dialogue on this topic is the most important thing. So this post will be a summary of the counterpoint created by much-appreciated reader comments from NaCly Dog, Stephanie O’Leary, and teejk, at my original post “A time for facing the truth.”
Disclaimer on my extended comment below: there are of course other points to make about the vision we need for government and what has to happen to get there. I haven’t tried to make all of those points, or even give a complete list of what the most important ones are. Feel free to add your ideas; I’m not neglecting things that may be important, just keeping this going, because we’ve got to stay engaged.
Arguing over what government should look like and do, at this very basic and intellectually difficult level, is the incredible project our Founders undertook. What I’m saying is that it’s necessary again today, if we want to come out of this crisis of the republic with any liberty left. Not everyone will be involved, but the due-out is a vision that most people can understand.
J.E. This is well stated and on target. However…
I have done that already. I was at the DC 9/12 March in 2009, the Glen Beck Restoring Honor Rally at the Lincoln Memorial in 2010, and helped local conservative groups. I then moved my family to a county in Kansas that has always voted Republican.
In Kansas I have given speaches, radio interviews, and led a Constitution Bee scholarship effort for 3 years. Our local conservative group is the most active in the state. I have walked in parades and precincts for great candidates, from Federal Senator to local School Board. They all lost. Along the way I have talked with plenty of folks using reason, wit and thought-provoking examples.
All of this is not working. The populous is not listening, our leaders and bureaucrats act as if we are thralls, fit to only do their bidding, and enemies of freedom are emboldened with their continued reign of power. I know, as I infiltrated their meetings.
We are the new Jews; the kulaks of today. We need something more.
I appreciate the tone of this piece, but have to agree with NaCly Dog: the time for talking is past. The Supreme Court’s latest move – chucking Constitutional Law out the window for bleeding heart beseeching, manipulation, and judgement – proves we have “jumped the shark” with government authorities representing the people at large, and the Left range from laissez-faire to feral on anything to do with homosexuality, religion, immigration, or guns.
Critical thinking and debating skills used to be taught and appreciated; now, if you don’t spout the popular kids party line, you’re shouted down and branded a bigot. Decades of generational welfare, and immigrants who refuse to assimilate have created a new “Wild West” of lazy, entitled victims from fractured families who don’t want to think and are indoctrinated in public schools with Leftist ideology. They also don’t care about the future; as long as they get theirs today, screw tomorrow and everybody else. This is NOT the America I grew up in, and I confess that I’m at a loss to know what to do next to try and right this battered ship of State.
I can’t help but think of the “Lord of the Rings” movies with Sauron creating his mindless, brute armies whose single purpose in the words of Aragorn was “to destroy the world of Men.” The Fellowship set out against tremendous odds to defeat the monsters and suffered tragedies and losses, but ultimately, little Frodo from the Shire destroyed the Ring of Power (with help from his faithful Sam.) Who is our Frodo? And is there a Fellowship that can be formed to bring us together to defeat the cancerous monster that is slowly killing our country?
Great piece J.e. But (maybe I should bold that??? But…I think most people in this country just want to be left alone but are naïve enough to think that they don’t have to engage in politics because their elected representatives will “represent” them (that’s the way it is supposed to work but that ship sailed a long time ago I fear). With that as the mind-set of a lot of people, we have dug a big hole Grand Canyon to climb out of. While we were sleeping, we now have a massive bureaucracy that rules the country…accountable to nobody other than his/her boss who is accountable to nobody other than his/her boss accountable to nobody other than his/her boss (the progression could continue but you get the point). Hate to say it but I have to agree with something David Clarke said recently…first comes rage…then comes revolt.
For NaCly and Stephanie O’Leary: I feel your pain about the problem with endless talking, but that’s not what my proposition is.
With due respect to NaCly, you haven’t done what I’m outlining here. I don’t mean proselytizing the general populace on questions of the philosophy of government. I mean getting the already convinced into a huddle and deciding what literally needs to happen to reset government to where it should be.
I know as sure as I’m sitting here that you don’t all agree with me on what I think is necessary. And I’ll tell you this: I won’t put my life, fortune, and sacred honor on the line for something less than what I believe we really need.
We haven’t done the hard work of outlining a concrete objective that we can agree on, much less come up with a strategy. The objective has to come first.
Has the Tea Party accomplished anything other than putting more Republicans in Congress? No. And the reason for that is that the Tea Party is a bunch of people with different, mostly narrow-slice ideas of what they mean by wanting government to — as tee says — leave them alone.
That won’t get the job done. When I say we have to face the truth, I mean we have to face the whole truth, which is that the operation of government in America today is unsalvageable. This is as true at the state level in most states as it is at the federal level. It’s also true in virtually all of the major cities. Continuing to try to elect Republicans, to manage the same diseased, overgrown apparatus, will never produce the changes we need to reclaim liberty.
But what DO we want government to look like? It isn’t good enough to say “leave us alone.”
And I’m not talking to the Great Unthinking out there, high-information readers; I’m talkin-da YOU. It’s the maybe 10-15% of engaged, high-information constitutionalists, conservatives, libertarians who need to do this work.
Should there be a federal income tax? No. Should there be a federal payroll withholding program of any kind (SS, Medicare)? No, although we need to keep faith with the seniors who paid into those programs all their lives, and manage a transition so that they don’t get hurt.
No capital gains tax. No taxes, period, that require an accounting to government of how much you earned, what your costs were, or what your bank balance is.
We need to set limits on the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution. States should NOT necessarily be bound to live by rules set by other states. There should be gales of laughter throughout the land if one state suggests that others should have to bear the costs of its silly laws, or conform with its radical redefinitions of social relationships.
We need to establish that federal jurisprudence has reached an unsalvageable condition. We are controlled now by too many bad precedents: precedents with implications about law and government that we can’t live with. How do we get rid of the compulsion of those precedents? I guarantee you, no one here has thought systematically about what it will take to do that. Merely electing Republican presidents, and hoping that over time the appointment of justices will right our course, has manifestly been a colossal failure.
A good 90% of what Congress and the executive have done for the last 100 years fits the same profile. And that requires addressing in a whole context of its own.
Consider the reality that human problems and the desire to do something about them won’t go away. How do we establish liberty and limited government, in an age when the growth of information and connectedness make people feel so empowered to “manage” and “fix” things on a mass scale?
Our Founders worked wisely and well, but they didn’t live in such an age. We do, and our idea of limited government has shown itself to be unprepared for its assault. Given that pollution and poor land management do happen, but having an EPA is a fatal menace to the liberty we are morally entitled to above all else, what DO we do?
It isn’t good enough to say, “Pretend we don’t know any more today than we did in 1787, and just go with the remedies of British common law.” In fact, it IS appropriate for a national central government to have opinions about the stewardship of our land and resources. Should the states and individual property owners have the lead? Yes — but what does that mean about stewardship? What are our expectations in that regard? The same as they were in 1787? In 1887?
No. But we haven’t outlined, updated, or strengthened the philosophy by which we limit government, and appoint prerogatives in a decentralized system, in an age in which we can all look at synoptic satellite images of our entire country, and have such an overwhelming sense that we understand what we’re seeing, well enough to make “macro” level decisions about it.
That’s just one of several examples that form the core I think is important: the public issues that force us to do the most significant thinking about how we want government to look.
I challenge you, if you think we’re ready to “do something,” to outline for me what our objective is. Charles Murray proposes to basically render our public system brittle and make it collapse by fleeing from it. But the real question is — then what? Resistance against the current system isn’t an end-state. It isn’t possible to overemphasize the point that it WILL NOT get us to a condition of more limited government and better-protected freedom.
There are other things we can profitably do, between now and when opportunity arises for us to implement a great course correction for America. We should continue being active in public dialogue and the political system as it exists today. It may be of some use to engage in the passive resistance Murray and others are advocating.
I’m not saying that developing a concrete vision is the only thing we need to do. But it is the indispensable thing we need to do. I don’t know — no one does — when or how the opportunity I keep speaking of will arise. I urge everyone to avoid breaking laws or engaging in insurrection. Doing these things to create the opportunity is not what I suggest.
But if the opportunity comes, and we are not ready with a vision to be implemented, America will be stampeded by the leftist “never let a crisis go to waste” cohort. That cohort does have a concept ready to pull off the shelf and implement. It already sees that our formerly constitutionalist, limited-government system has been broken. It sees that because that’s what it wants. [As tee’s comment implies, it thinks about government all the time, unlike liberty-lovers.]
We have the advantage that our ideas offer hope and future. But people in crisis won’t recognize that unless they can see the way ahead. That’s the vision we have to have formulated.