Tag Archives: bureaucracies

If We Only Had a Constitution

United_States_ConstitutionWe are learning today what it is like to live in a Democracy without a Constitution; and it is not pretty. No Democracy has ever lasted more than two hundred years before falling into chaos to be replaced by a tyrannical oligarchy headed by a “strong man” dictator. We have lasted a little longer only because of the lingering influence of the Constitution we once had. In a non-constitutional Democracy, or in our case, a post-constitutional Democracy, politicians have to give the majority of the people whatever they perceive it wants in order to hold onto power. This arrangement only lasts until the government has grown powerful enough that it no longer needs the approval of the people to stay in power. At that point, messy elections can be dispensed with, and the newly minted “leader” can rule by fiat until the next successful revolution.

Imagine how different things would be today if we had not abandoned our Constitution. We would not be sixteen trillion dollars in debt because the government would only be allowed to spend money for things the Constitution delegated as its responsibility. We would not be spending four million dollars to send our President on a Hawaiian holiday, because all expenditures would have to be first appropriated by the House of Representatives, and approved by the Senate for that particular purpose, with an accounting made to Congress and the people. The President would not be allowed to issue “Executive Orders” with the force of law, affecting the every day lives of the American people.

Federal laws would only be made by the federal legislature. Courts would not be making laws telling us how and when we can pray, or how we should educate our children.  Bureaucracies would not be issuing “rules” to tell us what kind of light bulb we should use, what kind of transportation we should buy, or what we should eat or drink and how much. Bureaucratic activity would be only what is needed to administer the specific laws written by Congress. Those bureaucracies and departments not established under the delegated powers of Congress would not exist. Our doctors would not have to consult with government to know how to treat our illnesses. Business failure or success would not be dependent on favorable laws by government; the market would determine what goods and services were needed and how much we were willing to pay for them.

We would have more control over the laws governing how we live because they would be made by our state and local legislative bodies whose members are within easy reach and more sensitive to our wishes. Laws passed would be more in keeping with the values of the community, not the values of politicians who had never set foot in our state, much less our community. We would not be working forty percent of our lives to supply the government with money used to buy the votes of its government-created dependents. Our tax burden would only be what is needed to carry out the delegated powers of government. Our schools would not be used to indoctrinate our children in statism and immorality, because they would be under our control and community supervision. Our teachers would consider their jobs a “calling” not a career and would teach for the love of teaching and not for fringe benefits.

Ah, for the good-old-days when America was ruled by law and not the whims of men; and those laws could be written in a few paragraphs easily understandable by the average person with a workable knowledge of the language and a good dictionary; when all laws flowed from the Supreme Law of the Land and not from the desire of “do-gooders” who believe that we all should live in a two-tier society made up of the ruling elites and the worker drones who subsist on the largess of government. Is it possible that liberty, once lost, can ever be regained? Let us pray that it can.

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What Oil and Wind Should Be Teaching Us

The Gulf oil spill and hurricane Katrina have an important message. Is anyone listening?

That pesky hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico puts an exclamation point to a truth Washington politicians fail to understand and refuse to acknowledge. The powers of the Federal Government is limited, not only by the Constitution, but by the limitations of human capabilities as well. A person can become competent in a small number of subjects over a lifetime of experience and study.  However, very few can become experts in more than one or two. Being elected to public office does not change that basic truth. Washington simply does not have the expertise or competency necessary to solve every natural or man made problem the American people encounter.

It is not just the incompetence of the current Obama Administration. The size and reach of the federal government makes it incapable of solving or even controlling most of the major domestic issues facing America today, no matter who sits in the White House or serves in Congress; having the most incompetent administration and possibly the most incompetent Congress in our history only makes matters worse.

The Founders, whether by experience, knowledge, or intuition, understood this imperfection in human government when they laid out the plan for our own in the Constitution. They understood that a republican form of government, in order to be effective must be limited in the area and population governed. Thomas Jefferson mused to a friend, John Taylor, in an 1816 letter, “Such a government [pure republicanism] is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population. I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township”.

The larger the area and population governed, the more autocratic the government must be in order to maintain stability. The thirteen states that ratified the Constitution in 1788 had a population of less than 3 million people and covered less than 1 million sq. mi. Realizing that a nation that large could not be sufficiently governed by a central government while still protecting the liberties of its people, the Founders devised a plan limiting the national government to those issues that could only be adequately handled at the national level, leaving all others to the states. Today the United States has an estimated population of 309,000,000 people and covers an area of 3,537,455 square miles, making it the third largest nation on earth.

223 years of world history has demonstrated the wisdom of the Founders in designing a decentralized but cooperative government with an upside down power pyramid going from the people to the state to the federal. That is not to say that the Federal Government should have no role in dealing with catastrophes like the Gulf oil spill or hurricane Katrina but its role should be subordinate to the states involved. The huge overwhelming bureaucracies of the Federal Government with their cross currents of political intrigue and jurisdictional rivalry inhibit the rapid development and implementation of the solutions necessary to limit the damage and eventually stop the flow of oil into the Gulf, for example.

As our population continues to amass in ever-growing population centers, the potential for devastating natural or man made disasters increase. We will continue to have hurricanes, forest fires, floods, tornadoes, oil spills, and possibly terrorist attacks in the future. In these instances the role of the Federal government should be a role of assisting not directing. State and local authorities must have the primary responsibility and authority to implement an emergency response when necessary with the Federal Government supplying resources and manpower as needed and requested.

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What Happened To My Country?–Part One

liberty-bellLast November fifty-two percent of the American voters blindly voted for Barack Obama for President with enough Democratic Senators and Congressmen to give him a veto-proof majority in Congress.  Millions of Americans are now waking up to find their country on the verge of becoming a Democratic-Socialist country similar to those of Western Europe.  As they emerge from their stupor they are asking; “What happened to my country?”  The answer should be no surprise. We did not go from a free republic to a socialist oligarchy overnight.  We have been moving in that direction for the past hundred years and the closer we get the faster we move.

The Rise of Political Parties

Political parties are essential to the institution of government.  Governments are essential to the establishment and preservation of an ordered society.  Both are detrimental to individual liberty and must be accountable to the people governed.  Otherwise, they always combine to subjugate those governed to complete despotism.

The first organized political party in America was founded by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams in 1789.  In response, a second party was founded in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  The Party founded by Hamilton and Adams was named “The Federalist Party” and the one founded by Jefferson and Madison was called “The Democratic-Republican Party”.  The names were chosen for political reasons and are somewhat misleading.

For example, “Federalist” suggests a loose federation of independent states similar to the one formed after the Declaration of Independence under the Articles of Confederation.  Most Americans at that time feared a strong central government and generally thought of their home state as their “country” rather than the “United States”.  Someone referring to their “country” in personal correspondence was usually referring to their particular state rather than all the states combined.

In the debates during and after the Philadelphia Convention, the term “Federalists” was applied to those who favored the Constitution and a strong central government.  Opponents who wanted strong state governments protected by a “Bill of Rights” were called Anti-Federalists.  What is usually overlooked by most historians is the fact that a majority of the participants in the Convention were in favor of a “national” government rather than a “federal” government.  If not for the Anti-Federalists, our Constitution would have been quite different from the final product.

Political parties are associations of like-minded people organized for the purpose of promoting their shared philosophy of government.  Since the founding of our nation there have been over 150 recognized political parties active in America at various times.  All of them can be placed into one of two categories; (1) Statists who favor an intrusive, all-powerful central government with subordinate state governments; and (2) Anti-Statists who favor strong local and state governments with a central government limited to matters that cannot be effectively attended to by the states.

The Federalist Party at the turn of the nineteenth century would fall into the former category and is the philosophical precursor of today’s Democratic Party.  The Democratic-Republican Party was an anti-statists party and is the philosophical precursor of today’s conservative base within the Republican Party.

The Federalists elected only one President, John Adams, who served one term before being defeated in 1800 by Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans.  The Party ceased to exist in the early 1820s and most of its members joined with the nationalistic wing of the Democratic-Republicans.  The Democratic-Republican Party succeeded in electing four successive Presidents, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams.  Without the leadership of Jefferson and Madison, and without the opposition of the Federalist Party it began to dissolve in the mid-1820s.

The nationalist faction of the Party was revived under the leadership of Andrew Jackson as the Democratic Party and continues until today. It succeeded in electing  Jackson as President in 1828.  On taking office in 1829, Jackson institutionalized the “spoils system”, whereby federal jobs were awarded on the basis of party loyalty and work performed on behalf of the party, rather than on experience or merit.  This greatly increased the power of the party by making party loyalty a condition of employment and other favors.  The patronage system of “spoils” soon spread throughout the entire political system as a way of strengthening party influence and longevity.

It also led to widespread corruption as party loyalists competed for prime political appointments and worked to promote the party in order to hold on to their jobs.  Attempts at reform generally proved ineffective until a rejected office-seeker assassinated President Garfield in 1881.  Garfield’s death brought about the Pendleton Act of 1883 and the establishment of the Civil Service Commission.  The spoils system continued in state and local politics however, and is still the primary source of power for big city Democratic political bosses to this day.

In spite of the Pendleton Act and the later Hatch Act, patronage continues in most of our Democratic controlled major cities.  With the Shakman Decrees of 1972 and 1983, the City of Chicago agreed to end the patronage system.  However, as late as 2006 violations of the decrees were alleged in the Congressional campaigns of Rom Emanuel and others.  Chicago now has a “Shakman Monitor” appointed by the courts and operating with debatable results; i.e., the recent “hired-truck” scandal resulting in the conviction of several city executives.

The Republican Party

The National Republican Party was organized in 1829 in opposition to the autocratic Presidency of Andrew Jackson.  The NRP went out of existence in 1833 to be replaced by the Whig Party, made up mostly of former members of the Democratic-Republicans and National Republican Parties.  The Whigs continued until 1856, electing two Presidents, both of whom died within a year of taking office.

The best-known Whigs were William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln.  Millard Fillmore was the last Whig to hold the office of President.  Ultimately, the Party was wrecked over the question of slavery.  Many former Whigs, including Abraham Lincoln, were instrumental in organizing the Republican Party of today.

Since the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the American Political system has been dominated by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  Third party candidates mostly function as “spoilers” to the major candidate of the party most aligned with their point of view.  Today the two major parties act as a shadow government rivaling the powers of the constitutionally appointed government in virtually every segment of political life.

The major source of political power for today’s political parties comes from a residue of the spoils system and campaign contributions extracted from corporations and others as protection from targeted tax codes and bureaucratic regulations that have the ability to determine the profitability of businesses and the personal liberty of individuals.

The next few years will show whether the American people have the will and the ability to take back their country from the statist ideology that dominates it in the twenty first century. To do that we have to regain control of the two major political parties and demand that they too abide by the founding principles on which our government was established.