Monday, July 11, 2011

Framers distrusted unfettered democracy


There's little that's intelligent or informed about Time magazine editor Richard Stengel's article "One Document, Under Siege" (June 23, 2011). It contains many grossly ignorant statements about our Constitution. If I believed in conspiracies, I'd say Stengel's article is part of a leftist agenda to undermine respect for the founding values of our nation.

Stengel says: "The framers were not gods and were not infallible. Yes, they gave us, and the world, a blueprint for the protection of democratic freedoms – freedom of speech, assembly, religion – but they also gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being, that women were not allowed to vote and that South Dakota should have the same number of senators as California, which is kind of crazy. And I'm not even going to mention the Electoral College."

My column last week addressed the compromise whereby each slave was counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of determining representation in the House of Representatives and Electoral College. Had slaves been counted as whole people, slaveholding states would have had much greater political power. I agree the framers were not gods and were not infallible, but they had far greater wisdom and principle than today's politicians.

The framers held democracy and majority rule in deep contempt. As a matter of fact, the term democracy appears in none of our founding documents. James Madison argued that "measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." John Adams said: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." Stengel's majoritarian vision sees it as anti-democratic that South Dakota and California both have two senators, but the framers wanted to reduce the chances that highly populated states would run roughshod over thinly populated states. They established the Electoral College to serve the same purpose in determining the presidency.

The framers recognized that most human abuses were the result of government. As Thomas Paine said, "government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil." Because of their distrust, the framers sought to keep the federal government limited in its power. Their distrust of Congress is seen in the language used throughout our Constitution. The Bill of Rights says Congress shall not abridge, shall not infringe, shall not deny and other shall-nots, such as disparage, violate and deny. If the founders did not believe Congress would abuse our God-given, or natural, rights, they would not have provided those protections. I've always argued that if we depart this world and see anything resembling the Bill of Rights at our next destination, we'll know we're in hell. A bill of rights in heaven would be an affront to God.

Other founder distrust for government is found in the Constitution's separation of powers, checks and balances, and several anti-majoritarian provisions, such as the Electoral College, two-thirds vote to override a veto and the requirement that three-quarters of state legislatures ratify changes to the Constitution.

Stengel says, "If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn't say so." That statement is beyond ignorance. The 10th Amendment reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Stengel apparently has not read The Federalist No. 45, in which James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, said: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

Stengel's article is five pages online, and I've only commented on the first. There's also little in the remaining pages that reflects understanding and respect for our nation's most important document.



What ‘constitutional conservatism’ means to me

By Rep. Michele Bachmann

I am a constitutional conservative. So what does that mean? I’ve earned a couple of law degrees, but defining “constitutional conservatism” shouldn’t require a legal scholar. Let me start by pointing out that the conservative movement, as Ronald Reagan believed, is a three-legged stool. One leg consists of peace-through-strength conservatives, another of fiscal and economic conservatives, and the third of social conservatives — the values voters.

Constitutional conservatism includes all three of those legs. My candidacy is based on the unity of the conservative movement — because each leg of the stool is vital.

I believe our founders knew what they were doing when they designed a limited government with specific, enumerated powers. I’m also convinced that many of our problems result from the federal government’s insatiable — and unconstitutional — grab for power and money. On issues ranging from light bulbs to bailouts, to the Dodd-Frank banking legislation, Washington has been on a destructive spree of bureaucratic empire-building. It’s time for that to stop.

Moreover, I believe in the unjustly neglected Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Instead of piling more costly mandates on the states and intrusive laws on the people, our federal government should respect all of the resources and responsibilities that properly belong to the states, to local governments, to private industry and, most of all, to the people.

James Madison cautioned that for a “government to control the governed” it must be obliged “to control itself.” A government that fails to exercise self-control and respect its own boundaries is a threat to the rights and liberties of its citizens. Among those rights is the right to life. I believe we must restore and respect the dignity of life for all, the born and unborn. As we read in the Declaration of Independence, we are endowed by our Creator with rights, starting with the right to life.

Another essential right is embodied in the Second Amendment: the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. Whether for self-defense, hunting or recreation, this right must be protected.

And of course, we must repeal Obamacare. We must pull it up by its roots for many good reasons, including the fact that the so-called personal mandate is unconstitutional.

In addition to individual rights, the Constitution establishes vital checks and balances among the branches of government. As Montesquieu argued, the separation of governmental powers stands as a roadblock to tyranny. We’ve seen President Obama stretch that separation with his unjustified military action in Libya.



Some Things Just Don’t Scale

I’m writing this posting while riding the infamous Maryland MTA train. It’s a light rail, the kind of public transportation that we keep being told that we need. My friend and I just left the annual Shore Leave science fiction convention, and are traveling the roughly 22 miles (as the crow would fly) back to his home, where I am a guest of him and his family. And on Friday, he and I traveled to DC on another train and back.

This trip cost us $3.20 total, and he says it will last a bit over an hour. In his car, if he’d not left it for his wife, it would have cost us about $6.50 in gas, but saved us over half an hour of time. Not to mention the seats would have had more than a slight trace of padding over the hard metal/plastic/stone that’s currently numbing my butt.

This, in a nutshell, is why “high speed rail” simply won’t work in America. At least, not on a scale large enough to make it economically self-sustaining.

We are Americans. We are used to our independence, our freedom of movement. There simply aren’t enough Americans (outside of highly urban areas) who have to go to and from the same places at the same times, and are willing to put up with the inconveniences that go with the economic benefits.

Inconveniences as the aforementioned time factor. Or the (pardon me while I cover my ears yet again) the squealing of the steel wheels on the rails. Or the constant stopping and starting and having to keep track of which stop is yours. Or the occasional crowding and being cooped up with a bunch of people you quite possibly would rather not be around, for various and sundry reasons.

Likewise, public security. Israel’s airport security is touted as the ideal, the role model. But Israel has exactly one major international airport, and it’s considerably smaller than our biggest ones. The efforts that make Ben Gurion such a secure airport would be simply too expensive, too time-consuming, and too manpower-intensive to work on the scale we would need them.

But that doesn’t change how current security measures are an absolute joke. While in DC, I ran into several security screenings. One of them was so I could get some fast food.

No joke. My friend and I saw a sign indicating that the Ronald Reagan Federal Building had a food court, and we went in – and I promptly concluded that there was a covert airport installed in the building. It was the only explanation I could see – the food at the Subway was NOT a national secret.

My faith in the security process was further eroded by my observation that most of the security guards seemed to have the main duty of telling us not to believe the signs we saw. One guy in the Commerce Department informed us that we could not reach the National Aquarium through that building – while standing under a sign that said “NATIONAL AQUARIUM” and had an arrow pointing down a hall to the right. Other guards repeatedly told us that doors marked “EXIT” were not actual exits, but we had to find other ways out of various and sundry buildings.

The only reason I can see to push things as “high speed rail” is to exert control over people. To limit their options and force them to give up their freedom to just jump in their car and go where they wish, when they wish, for as long as they wish.

Yes, that’s not a freedom that all can exercise. A lot of people don’t have cars. But that hardly seems a reason to strip the right from all.

Unless, of course, your goal is to get people used to depending on an impersonal government to provide for their needs. To get them to stop doing for themselves, to even stop thinking that they can or should do for themselves.

That is one of our greatest strengths as a nation. And yeah, sometimes it’s not such a great strength, or can actually be a bit of a liability. (Cue the environmentalists to tell us how wasteful private cars are vs. mass transportation.)

But it’s indisputably American.



America sneezes and the world catches cold

EUROPEAN shares fell sharply on Friday to end the week in the red after a surprising slide in U.S. job creation reignited fears over the pace of growth in the world's largest economy.

U.S. non-farm payrolls showed just 18,000 jobs added in June compared with a forecast for 90,000, adding to other data that suggesting the recovery there will be sluggish and uneven.

The surprise underpinned a spike in volatility and gave market bears, already unsettled by the euro zone sovereign debt crisis, another reason to take profits after what had been a fairly positive week until that point.

"It's certainly very disappointing and does raise questions whether this was a temporary slowdown or anything else. It will up the emphasis on the second-quarter reporting season," Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of European blue-chips ended down 0.8 per cent at 1114.44 points, for a weekly loss of 0.4 per cent, after being up as high as 0.5 percent before the jobs announcement. The index is down 0.7 per cent so far this year.




Tug-of-war over Iraqi Jewish trove in US hands: "A trove of Jewish books and other materials, rescued from a sewage-filled Baghdad basement during the 2003 invasion, is now caught up in a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Iraq. Ranging from a medieval religious book to children's Hebrew primers, from photos to Torah cases, the collection is testimony to a once vibrant Jewish community in Baghdad."

Five uncomfortable facts about the wonderful, horrible debt limit debate: "No less an authority than a Treasury Department fact sheet claims, 'If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, the government would default on its legal obligations.' This is simply not true. The two things are distinct, and it's unnerving as hell (though hardly surprising) that the government department in charge of minding the books either is wilfully misleading people or just out to lunch. When the debt limit is reached, that doesn't mean that the U.S. will default on its debt payments. Unless it chooses to. There's a huge difference between reaching your limit and not paying your bills."

America is declining before our very eyes: "Three things that caught my attention this past week have me weeping for the future of American freedom. The first was a June Gallup poll that showed that about half of Americans believe the proper role of government is to take money from those who earned it and give it to those who didn't"

Put not your faith in princes — even liberal ones: "Although the Democrats claim to be the party of ordinary working people (as opposed to the Republicans, who are the party of the rich and big business), it’s more accurate to say the two parties represent two partially opposed factions within the corporate ruling class. As Ralph Nader once put it, we have one corporate party with two heads."

California shoots self in foot: "It is already law that residents of the state are supposed to pay the sales tax for all internet purchases. There is a line on the state income tax forms for that purpose -- a line ignored by Californians. Frustrated by their inability to force Californians to pay yet another tax in one of the highest taxed states in the country, the idea was to 'close a loophole' and force internet businesses to do the same tax collection that stores physically located in the state collect -- a service they provide 'free' to the state. Already and are reacting to this new law. They are not collecting the sale taxes, though. They are pulling out of the state."

Maybe the New Deal was a class war after all: "FDR was fond of bashing 'money changers' and plutocrats, and of challenging major figures in business and industry — which is indicative, since he himself was engaged in … nothing. Nothing, that is, aside from politics. Really, his official White House biography speaks of college, law school and political office. Other biographies refer to a brief legal clerkship. But really, his family had lived off of inherited money for generations, and he didn’t have to work at anything that didn’t interest him. The man was a landed aristocrat."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc. He also has some extensive thoughts about the closure of the world's biggest circulation newspaper -- Britain's "News of the World"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: