8 Feb

Is a government any less despotic simply because it has not yet chosen to send stormtroopers to your door? [Reader Post]

                                       

In the absence of government, anarchy sets in. In the presence of an all powerful government you have totalitarianism. In both cases a man’s attention must be focused on attending to the immediacies necessary for survival. In the former, dangers can be found around any corner as everyone fends for themselves. In the latter, dangers can be found around every corner as the government controls and sees all. When your entire existence is focused on surviving one day to the next, it’s difficult to focus on things like science, leisure or any of the myriad other things we take for granted in civilized society.

As such, the natural condition of human interaction demands governance of some sort in order to have more than simple survival. Government typically starts as a result of groups of individuals seeking to bring order out of chaos who form a governing body of limited power. As time goes by, governments tend to move from one side of the control spectrum to the other as they slowly begin to accumulate more and more power. Eventually a government will become sufficiently oppressive that its subjects revolt. How that revolt plays itself out can take many forms. In some cases it’s an even more brutal regime – think Iran – in some cases it can bring a return to anarchy – the French Revolution – or in others it brings about something in between – the signing of the Magna Carta.

It is from this cauldron of constantly morphing social and governmental forms the United States was born. After the misstep of the Articles of Confederation, the nation found its footing with the Constitution. The beauty of the Constitution was that it was written specifically to limit the power and reach of the government while giving that same government sufficient power to accomplish the tasks delegated to it. Unfortunately, over the last seventy five years the government has blasted through many of those fundamental limitations.

The result has been far too much regulation. When a statist like President Obama says as much in the Wall Street Journal, it must be obvious. Today there are more government regulations than at any point in our history. (Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama are not solely to blame for this however; after all, Richard Nixon gave us the EPA…) Indeed, before Obama FDR was the patron saint of regulation. Imagine, in 1934 alone the federal government generated over 10,000 pages of new law, four times what had been generated during the combined history of the country’s first 150 years of existence! Today laws with thousands of pages seem to be as common as the Sunday paper.

The problem with all of this? It’s the polar opposite of what our country was founded on in the first place. When it comes to the foundation of the United States, the Declaration of Independence is the why and the Constitution is the how. When government expands across the control spectrum to the point where it regulates (read: controls) everything its citizens do, then the ability of the citizens to pursue the original intent of the founders (Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness) is lost. And it’s not necessarily the laws themselves but their breadth and incomprehensibility. When one has a tax code that is 60,000 pages the sheer uncertainty of what is legal and the fear of penalty for making the wrong guess can be debilitating.

At what point does a government cross the threshold to be considered totalitarian? If it stops you from speaking? If it stops you from reading or writing books? If it stops you from practicing your religion? Most people would answer yes… obviously. What about if it decides it can tell you how and where you must spend your money? What if it seizes citizen’s property on a whim without providing you with just compensation? What if it suggests you might be a threat to national security simply because you once served in its military? What if it makes laws then exempts its friends from obeying them? If the government can do just about anything it wants, is it any less totalitarian just because its stormtroopers are not yet kicking down your door?

Americans have been bequeathed the greatest gift that any nation has ever been given. Our Constitution, albeit imperfect, provides an unparalleled framework for a nation to grow while almost perfectly sheltering its citizens from the chaos of anarchy or the choke-hold of totalitarianism. Over the last 75 years however, as Americans have been beguiled by the siren song of government protection from all manner of risk, the Constitution has been allowed to fade into a quaint anachronistic set of guidelines rather than a solid foundation for the rule of law. A constitution is merely words on a piece of paper. It can’t stop bullets, it can’t make you happy and it can’t feed your family. Our Constitution is only as strong as those who believe in its words and understand that it is a framework for letting citizens pursue happiness within the balance between anarchy and dictatorship.

Have we as nation become so enamored with government largesse and “protections” that we are unable to see that the distance between a government that recognizes no limits on its law making is not so far from a government that will use its police powers to enforce the resulting legislation? The Tea Party movement suggests that there remain some people who recognize the value of a strong constitution and a limited government. Let’s hope the energy from 2010 can be sustained through 2012 and beyond.

About Vince

The product of a military family, growing up in Naples, Italy and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and being stationed in Germany for two years while in the Army, Vince spent half of his first quarter century seeing the US from outside of its own borders. That perspective, along with a French wife and two decades as a struggling entrepreneur have only fueled an appreciation for freedom and the fundamental greatness of the gifts our forefathers left us.
This entry was posted in American Exceptionalism, Constitution and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 at 5:08 pm
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17 Responses to Is a government any less despotic simply because it has not yet chosen to send stormtroopers to your door? [Reader Post]

  1. ADEXLIST4DEMS says: 1

    I would say our government became unlawful after the creation of the federal reserve and the 16th amendment. Once they figured out a way to an ” unlimited ‘ supply of money the problems started. Most of the problems today are symptoms of the government using us as collateral to borrow and spend. The federal reserve is neither federal as it owned and controlled by the worlds banking families and it is not a reserve as most of it’s assets are nothing but numbers on paper. The elimination of the fed and the 16th amendment will cause many of the symptoms to go away, not all however. The elimination of most of the federal agencies will solve some of the problems and consolidation of some dept’s will fix others. The current crop of politicians, judges and power players will not allow this to happen. It is up to us to keep putting lawmakers in office who understand the underlying probem , symptoms and the cure.

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  2. L. E. Liesner says: 2

    It was the dereliction of the American people that allowed this government to balloon to such great proportions. We were given a Constitutional Republic and through complacency we allowed it to become a Socialistic Democracy. It is going to be a long hard fight to get our country back, and the politicians we have in office today will fight us tooth and nail to keep their world. It is sheer madness to allow people that want to destroy us, use our Constitution and Bill of Rights to accopmlish their dirty deed.

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  3. ADEXLIST4DEMS says: 3

    I agree with L. E. Liesner “the politicians we have in office today will fight us tooth and nail to keep their world”. One of the things that worked in our favor this past election cycle was attending town halls. They don’t like to be questioned or lectured and it showed, it worked so far in our favor because they isolated themselves further by hiding. The result will be more ” listening tours’ and invitation only events like Obama will be doing when he visits Michigan soon. The media will spin it as a real event, the public can smell otherwise. We have to continue to give them the rope to hang themselves.

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  4. If the government can do just about anything it wants, is it any less totalitarian just because its stormtroopers are not yet kicking down your door?

    Actually it would be better if they did progress swiftly to “kicking down your door.” That would wake people up to the reality of totalitarianism. Instead, we have the slow, subtle eroding of freedoms, the quiet implementation of restrictions, and the vast majority of Americans don’t realize what is being taken away from them.

    Fortunately, we are no longer reliant solely upon print newspapers and broadcast journalism for information; we’re able to access a vast array of information and share it widely, we can form our own conclusions and act upon them in concert with other like-minded Americans. Hence the Tea Party. No wonder the Tea Party is mocked, it’s proof that all Americans won’t willingly submit to the totalitarianism being foisted upon them.

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  5. Missy says: 5

    Timely editorial at Investors, fits nicely with your post Vince, makes you want to tear your hair out:

    Regulation Without Representation

    By WAYNE CREWS AND RYAN YOUNG
    Posted 02/08/2011 07:09 PM ET

    Regulatory agencies enact more than 3,500 new regulations in an average year. A new federal rule hits the books roughly every two hours, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    Compare that with Congress, which passes fewer than 200 pieces of legislation per year. Only Congress has the power to legislate in the American system of government, but Congress never actually votes on most regulations.

    This is regulation without representation, and it is a major problem.

    Regulation without representation is a major reason why the Code of Federal Regulations has ballooned to 157,000 pages and counting. It makes it far more difficult to do business and is slowing economic recovery.

    The total cost of federal regulations last year was over $1.75 trillion, according to economists Nicole and Mark Crain in a report for the Small Business Administration. This well exceeds the $1.5 trillion budget deficit that has gotten so much more attention.

    Every year, about 200 major rules hit the books. These are defined as regulations that cost more than $100 million per year. In 2010, there were 224 major rules at various stages at the agencies.

    Taken together, they cost businesses and consumers a bare minimum of $22.4 billion, yet Congress did not vote on most of them. Agencies have little incentive to restrain their command-and-control impulses without proper congressional oversight. That needs to change.

    The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (Reins) Act would be a good start. True to its name, it would require that Congress actually vote on all new major regulations. It would be impractical to require Congress to hold 3,500 votes per year in addition to its usual business, but it is perfectly reasonable to require votes for major rules. If anything, decency requires it.

    Unfortunately, both Congress and regulatory agencies have a vested interest in the status quo. On the congressional side, it allows politicians to claim they never voted for a regulation that turns out to be especially cumbersome or unpopular. Don’t blame me, blame the agencies! Meanwhile, those agencies are reluctant to give up the relative autonomy they now enjoy.

    One worry about Reins-style reform is that if Congress is required to vote on all regulations costing more than $100 million, bureaucrats could simply split major rules into smaller components costing less than $100 million each. They are clever creatures.

    The Reins Act seeks to address this by requiring agencies to explicitly identify all new rules as either major or non-major and to list similar rules aimed at the same goal — so if they split a $100 million rule into smaller parts, it’s easy to call them on it.

    http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article/562532/201102081909/Regulation-Without-Representation.htm

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  6. Oldpuppymax says: 6

    Mine is a door the stormtroopers might want to avoid.

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  7. Liberty says: 7

    POWER = MONEY = POWER = MONEY The cycle needs to be broken. The walls that were established by our Constitution no longer exist.
    Back in the 70’s I was involved in the tax protest movement. One day, after following the many trials of the movement leaders, reality hit me. Regardless of your evidence, there is no judge in the world going to rule in your favor against the IRS and the government. Their primary means of doing this is to prevent you, one way or another, of ever presenting your evidence. This is the same problem that the eligibility movement is having. Can you imagine the national impact if the courts ruled against the income tax or against Obama’s eligibility? Judges are also government.

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  8. Liberty says: 8

    The only reason the storm troopers haven’t shown up at our door is because we all meekly comply with their demands. Try protesting the government by not paying your taxes and you will live the experience of storm troopers at your door.

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  9. Greg says: 9

    @Liberty, #8:

    The precedent might have been set with President Washington’s response to the Whiskey Rebellion.

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  10. Old Trooper 2 says: 10

    Howdy Greg…The Whiskey Rebellion was for Tax Collection and did anyone get hurt?
    By April 15th everyone gets to mail or e-file. But over taxation and over regulation these days is at a level that Folks in Washington’s Day would consider to be oppressive. But You would not understand an un-oppressive form of Taxation. Reasonable Taxation would require the curtailment of the Wealth Redistribution that You find attractive and I find Oppressive.

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  11. Liberty says: 11

    @Greg: Might Have..and I guess from a leftist’s point of reasoning, that makes it right. It’s worth noting that the tax was the idea of our first large government socialist, Alexandra Hamilton.

    Tax a small group of people who have little sympathy from the majority; whiskey, cigarettes, or the rich
    .

    He therefore promoted passage of an excise tax on domestically distilled spirits. This was to be the first tax levied by the national government on a domestic product.[5] Although taxes were politically unpopular, Hamilton believed that the whiskey excise was a luxury tax that would be the least objectionable tax that the government could levy.[6

    We can also do some social engineering and win some votes from the social reformers.

    In this he had the support of some social reformers, who hoped that a “sin tax” would raise public awareness about the harmful effects of alcohol.[7]

    And like all good socialists we have to be careful we don’t hurt our good rich friends while at the same time driving out their competition.

    The whiskey excise was immediately controversial, with many people on the frontier arguing that the tax unfairly targeted westerners.[9] Whiskey was a popular drink, and farmers often supplemented their income by operating small stills.[10] Farmers living west of the Appalachian Mountains distilled their excess grain into whiskey, which was easier and more profitable to transport over the mountains than the more cumbersome grain. A whiskey tax would make western farmers less competitive with eastern grain producers.[11] Additionally, cash was always in short supply on the frontier, and so whiskey often served as a medium of exchange. For poorer people who were paid in whiskey, the excise was essentially an income tax that wealthier easterners did not pay.[12]

    Small farmers also protested that Hamilton’s excise effectively gave unfair tax breaks to large distillers, most of whom were based in the east. There were two methods of paying the whiskey excise: paying a flat fee or paying by the gallon. Large distillers produced whiskey in volume and could afford the flat fee. The more efficient they became, the less tax per gallon they would pay. Western farmers who owned small stills did not usually operate them year-round at full capacity, and so they ended up paying a higher tax per gallon, which made them less competitive.[13] Small distillers believed that Hamilton deliberately designed the tax to ruin them and promote big business, a view endorsed by some historians.[14] However, historian Thomas Slaughter argued that a “conspiracy of this sort is difficult to document”.[15] Whether by design or not, large distillers recognized the advantage that the excise gave them, and they supported the tax.[16]

    As usual it took the Republicans under Jefferson to clean up the mess.

    The whiskey tax was repealed after Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party, which opposed Hamilton’s Federalist Party, came to power in 1800

    source wikipedia

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  12. Skookum says: 12

    Getting grain from the farms to the markets in the East was difficult because the Ohio flows the wrong way. Hauling a wagon load of grain hundreds of miles along poor and non-existent roads wasn’t economically viable; however, when you leave Americans to their own devices they will figure out a way to make things work. We are talking about the government not telling individuals what to do: thus the pioneer grain farmer made whiskey and rye from his grain and the product was easier to haul and sell.

    Oh! but the distillers on the East Coast had manure hemorrhages at the idea that these farmers were distilling whiskey that could compete with the top labels; consequently, the father of our country was sent in to quell this early form of insurrection and was promptly made to look like a fool. The end result was that the whiskey distillers just headed farther South and found that the limestone waters of Kentucky and Tennessee made better whiskey and rye. They set up their farms and stills down there and distilled the best whiskey and bourbon in the world or at least a product that could compete with their cousins’ whiskey in Ireland and Scotland.

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  13. Old Trooper 2 says: 13

    Skookum, that Southern product is excellent. As a sidebar, you can but the raw product in exclusive stores that sell spirits under the label “Georgia Moon” t and I can testify to the purity and effectiveness. It is very popular outside the Gates at Ft. Benning but does kick like a mule if it is not sipped slowly.

    NASCAR found it’s origin in the South as Moon Shine Runners drove finely tuned autos to outrun Revenue Collectors over back roads. No doubt that the taxes now would be considered very oppressive to the Folks of Washington’s Day. After fighting the largest Military Power on Earth to win Independence from Taxation, the New Americans would have been outraged to see the Taxation in this day.

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  14. Skookum says: 14

    OT: Georgia Moon, I will look for that the next time I am down in Georgia.

    Goodness knows, I have a healthy respect for a mule’s kick. You can bully a mule, but if he lives long enough, he will cut you in half, eventually. I daydream about having a matched team of mules some day; they are great animals, but trickier than red haired women and sorrel fillies.

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  15. Donald Bly says: 15

    Excellent perspective Vince. Bravo

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  16. Mr. Irons says: 16

    Stormtroopers? I’d be more afraid of a Helghast Trooper than a Cloned Trooper coming to my door.

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