Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
One day the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”
“It was great, Dad.”
“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.
“Oh yeah,” said the son.
“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.
The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they had four.
We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.
We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.
Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.
We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.
We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.
We buy our food, but they grow theirs.
We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
“Don’t waste your time dreaming of being someone else. Don’t try to be someone else. Work and pray at being yourself. Be who you are, where you are. Concentrate on the little everyday problems and pains that beset you. Reserve your best efforts; expend your spiritual energy on what is right before you. This is what God asks of you. Listen closely. This is very important – and very misunderstood – for we all prefer to do what is to our personal liking. Very few of us choose duty first, or the will of God. Don’t cultivate someone else’s garden. Grow where you are planted.”
-St. Francis de Sales
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Michael Connelly, a retired attorney and Constitutional law instructor from Texas, has written his analysis and critique of the proposed health care bill.
Well, I have done it! I have read the entire text of proposed House Bill 3200: The Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009. I studied it with particular emphasis from my area of expertise, constitutional law. I was frankly concerned that parts of the proposed law that were being discussed might be unconstitutional. What I found was far worse than what I had heard or expected.
To begin with, much of what has been said about the law and its implications is in fact true, despite what the Democrats and the media are saying. The law does provide for rationing of health care, particularly where senior citizens and other classes of citizens are involved, free health care for illegal immigrants, free abortion services, and probably forced participation in abortions by members of the medical profession.
The Bill will also eventually force private insurance companies out of business and put everyone into a government run system. All decisions about personal health care will ultimately be made by federal bureaucrats and most of them will not be health care professionals. Hospital admissions, payments to physicians, and allocations of necessary medical devices will be strictly controlled.
However, as scary as all of that it, it just scratches the surface. In fact, I have concluded that this legislation really has no intention of providing affordable health care choices. Instead it is a convenient cover for the most massive transfer of power to the Executive Branch of government that has ever occurred, or even been contemplated. If this law or a similar one is adopted, major portions of the Constitution of the United States will effectively have been destroyed.
The first thing to go will be the masterfully crafted balance of power between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of the U.S. Government. The Congress will be transferring to the Obama Administration authority in a number of different areas over the lives of the American people and the businesses they own. The irony is that the Congress doesn’t have any authority to legislate in most of those areas to begin with. I defy anyone to read the text of the U.S. Constitution and find any authority granted to the members of Congress to regulate health care.
This legislation also provides for access by the appointees of the Obama administration of all of your personal healthcare information, your personal financial information, and the information of your employer, physician, and hospital. All of this is a direct violation of the specific provisions of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures. You can also forget about the right to privacy. That will have been legislated into oblivion regardless of what the 3rd and 4th Amendments may provide.
If you decide not to have healthcare insurance or if you have private insurance that is not deemed “acceptable” to the “Health Choices Administrator” appointed by Obama there will be a tax imposed on you. It is called a “tax” instead of a fine because of the intent to avoid application of the due process clause of the 5th Amendment. However, that doesn’t work because since there is nothing in the law that allows you to contest or appeal the imposition of the tax, it is definitely depriving someone of property without the “due process of law.
So, there are three of those pesky amendments that the far left hate so much out the original ten in the Bill of Rights that are effectively nullified by this law. It doesn’t stop there though. The 9th Amendment that provides: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people;” The 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are preserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Under the provisions of this piece of Congressional handiwork neither the people nor the states are going to have any rights or powers at all in many areas that once were theirs to control.
I could write many more pages about this legislation, but I think you get the idea. This is not about health care; it is about seizing power and limiting rights. Article 6 of the Constitution requires the members of both houses of Congress to “be bound by oath or affirmation” to support the Constitution. If I was a member of Congress I would not be able to vote for this legislation or anything like it without feeling I was violating that sacred oath or affirmation. If I voted for it anyway I would hope the American people would hold me accountable.
For those who might doubt the nature of this threat I suggest they consult the source. Here is a link to the Constitution: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html
And another to the Bill of Rights: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html
There you can see exactly what we are about to have taken from us.
Read more of his thoughts and writings here.
H/T Freedom Torch
Friday, August 28, 2009
Human Life International’s Statement on the Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy
August 27, 2009
We must, as a matter of precept, pray for the salvation of heretical Catholics like Senator Edward Kennedy, but we do not have to praise him let alone extol him with the full honors of a public Catholic funeral and all the adulation that attends such an event. There was very little about Ted Kennedy’s life that deserves admiration from a spiritual or moral point of view. He was probably the worst example of a Catholic statesman that one can think of. When all is said and done, he has distorted the concept of what it means to be a Catholic in public life more than anyone else in leadership today.
Obviously we don't know the state of Senator Edward Kennedy's soul upon death. We don’t pretend to. We are told by the family that he had the opportunity to confess his sins before a priest, and his priest has said publicly he was “at peace” when he died. For that we are grateful. But it is one thing to confess one’s sins and for these matters to be kept, rightfully, private. It is another thing entirely for one who so consistently and publicly advocated for the destruction of unborn human beings to depart the stage without a public repudiation of these views, a public confession, as it were.
It is up to God to judge Senator Kennedy’s soul. We, as rational persons, must judge his actions, and his actions were not at all in line with one who values and carefully applies Church teaching on weighty matters. Ted Kennedy’s positions on a variety of issues have been a grave scandal for decades, and to honor this “catholic” champion of the culture of death with a Catholic funeral is unjust to those who have actually paid the price of fidelity. We now find out that President Obama will eulogize the Senator at his funeral, an indignity which, following on the heels of the Notre Dame fiasco, leaves faithful Catholics feeling sullied, desecrated and dehumanized by men who seem to look for opportunities to slap the Church in the face and do so with impunity simply because they have positions of power.
It is not enough for Kennedy to have been a “great guy behind the scenes” as we have seen him referred to even by his political opponents. It is also not praiseworthy to put a Catholic rhetorical veneer on his leftist politics that did nothing to advance true justice as the Church sees it or to advance the peace of Christ in this world. Every indication of Senator Kennedy’s career, every public appearance, every sound bite showed an acerbic, divisive and partisan political hack for whom party politics were much more infallible than Church doctrines. Whatever one’s political affiliation, if one is only “Catholic” to the extent that his faith rhymes with his party line, then his Catholicism is a fraud.
As the Scriptures remind us, there is a time for everything under the sun. This, now, is the time for honesty about our Faith and about those who are called to express it in the public forum. If we do not remind ourselves of the necessity of public confession for public sins such as Senator Kennedy was guilty of, then we are negligent in our embrace of the Faith and we are part of the problem. As Pope Benedict has reminded us recently, charity without truth can easily become mere sentimentality, and we must not fall into that error. A Catholic show of charity for the family must not eclipse the truth that is required of all with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Senator Kennedy needs to be sent to the afterlife with a private, family-only funeral and the prayers of the Church for the salvation of his immortal soul. He will not be missed by the unborn who he betrayed time and time again, nor by the rest of us who are laboring to undo the scandalous example of Catholicism that he gave to three generations of Americans.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By David L. Weatherford
Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to rain slapping the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun fading into the night?
You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.
Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask "How are you?", do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?
You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.
Ever told your child, we'll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
'cause you never had time to call and say hi?
You better slow down, don't dance so fast,
time is short, the music won't last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
it's like an unopened gift thrown away.
Life isn't a race, so take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
How many doctors currently take the original Hippocratic Oath? If you want a true and meaningful health care reform, lets start with the physicians living up to this.
I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.
I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.
Friday, August 14, 2009
"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get."
Monday, August 10, 2009
Jimmy Buffett, singer, surfer and storyteller, is on his 30-date Summerzcool tour through November. Here, he tells us how to impress a woman and mix his favorite drink, and why lying every day is an acceptable practice.
Interviewed by Alexandra Wolfe
What advice would you give the younger you?
To learn to play the piano when my mother wanted me to. And I wish I would have learned another language earlier. I struggle with both now. But music is the universal language; you can still communicate with a guitar and a song.
What should every man know about money?
You’ve got to be able to take it out of the equation in order to enjoy life and make good decisions. Years ago I went to Warren Buffett for advice about something, and that’s what he told me. He said, “Whether you make or don’t make this deal, is it going to affect your life? And if not, then do what you want to do and be prepared for them to say no.” I’ve used that quite a bit. A while ago I almost bit on a deal with Disney. I thought it would mean instant fortune, but they had all these things they wanted me to do. I walked away from that and it worked out.
What’s the best way to impress a woman?
I start with southern charm. Then the guitar would come in.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My old friend Herman Wouk gave me this advice: “As a prose writer, just get a page a day done and don’t try to do anything else.” That seems to work. The task of writing a big book, it takes discipline, while writing a song is so refreshing it’s like you’re skipping along like a stone in the ocean. But after writing books I’m more conscientious about what I’m saying in lyrics. I take more time making that little bit of poerty better.
How do you make your favorite drink?
It’s basically just good Caribbean rum, coconut water — the clear stuff from the coconut that you can now get in Whole Foods; not Coco Lopez — a fresh piece of lime, and lots of ice. That’s it. No bubbles, lots of electrolytes, and no hangover — if you don’t drink a gallon. How do you think all those folks survive Carnival in Trinidad for two weeks?
What one skill should every man have?
To be a good reader, because then you don’t have to be a conversationalist to be knowledgeable. I’m shy.
When is it okay for a man to lie?
For me it would be every day. I have to default to Faulkner and say, “Well, you know I’m a liar, and I make a good living at it.” I’m not going to claim the Fifth here, but I’m going to claim writer’s privilege in that we’re allowed to expand our version of the truth. I’m an embellisher.
What secrets should a man keep to himself?
I think secrets should be held for a long time, and, if you live a long and interesting life, it’s worth it to let them all out at the end. I wrote a book at 50, and I didn’t tell all the good stuff. It’s like, there are secrets to writing songs. There are secret surf spots. You keep that box of magic tricks around, and when you’re done doing your magic, then you can talk about it—purely for the showbiz aspect of the tell-all book.
What’s the handiest survival skill you have?
I’m a pretty good field medic. From my Boy Scout days I can patch people up. I can do stitches, which comes in handy in remote surf breaks.
What skill would you like to master?
I had a fleeting desire to do kitesurfing— then I saw the injury reports and the YouTube videos and I wnet, “Nah. I’m content.” Stand up paddleboarding is the last new skill I learned. Laird Hamilton gave me a lesson. It took me about an hour, and then I had it pretty good.
How should a man best face his fears?
There have been times onstage when fear comes up. You have to acknowledge that you’re scared to death and just say, “Well, here we go.”
What do you want to do before you die?
I have four things: Learn to hang ten. Go to space. Go to Pitcairn Island, where my Buffett ancestors are from. And go to Antartica.
What’s the secret to staying young?
For me it’s being in the water every day, whether it’s surfing or swimming. I look at these guys in Hawaii and they’re 80 years old in the surf break and look great. And that’s all they do. I want to be in that club when I’m that old.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
If only more business and industry had this commitment to quality over quantity.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but had once failed an entire class.
That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.
The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.
As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The following is adapted from a lecture delivered at Hillsdale College on March 9, 2009 by Mark Steyn
My Remarks are titled tonight after the words of General Stark, New Hampshire's great hero of the Revolutionary War: "Live free or die!" When I first moved to New Hampshire, where this appears on our license plates, I assumed General Stark had said it before some battle or other—a bit of red meat to rally the boys for the charge; a touch of the old Henry V-at-Agincourt routine. But I soon discovered that the general had made his famous statement decades after the war, in a letter regretting that he would be unable to attend a dinner. And in a curious way I found that even more impressive. In extreme circumstances, many people can rouse themselves to rediscover the primal impulses: The brave men on Flight 93 did. They took off on what they thought was a routine business trip, and, when they realized it wasn't, they went into General Stark mode and cried "Let's roll!" But it's harder to maintain the "Live free or die!" spirit when you're facing not an immediate crisis but just a slow, remorseless, incremental, unceasing ratchet effect. "Live free or die!" sounds like a battle cry: We'll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it's something far less dramatic: It's a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die.
My book America Alone is often assumed to be about radical Islam, firebreathing imams, the excitable young men jumping up and down in the street doing the old "Death to the Great Satan" dance. It's not. It's about us. It's about a possibly terminal manifestation of an old civilizational temptation: Indolence, as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a republic. When I ran into trouble with the so-called "human rights" commissions up in Canada, it seemed bizarre to find the progressive left making common cause with radical Islam. One half of the alliance profess to be pro-gay, pro-feminist secularists; the other half are homophobic, misogynist theocrats. Even as the cheap bus 'n' truck road-tour version of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it made no sense. But in fact what they have in common overrides their superficially more obvious incompatibilities: Both the secular Big Government progressives and political Islam recoil from the concept of the citizen, of the free individual entrusted to operate within his own societal space, assume his responsibilities, and exploit his potential.
In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. Hillary Rodham Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. It's supposedly an African proverb—there is no record of anyone in Africa ever using this proverb, but let that pass. P.J. O'Rourke summed up that book superbly: It takes a village to raise a child. The government is the village, and you're the child. Oh, and by the way, even if it did take a village to raise a child, I wouldn't want it to be an African village. If you fly over West Africa at night, the lights form one giant coastal megalopolis: Not even Africans regard the African village as a useful societal model. But nor is the European village. Europe's addiction to big government, unaffordable entitlements, cradle-to-grave welfare, and a dependence on mass immigration needed to sustain it has become an existential threat to some of the oldest nation-states in the world.
And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it's another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ's Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that's underway. The 44th president's multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can't make that math add up. In Sweden, state spending accounts for 54% of GDP. In America, it was 34%—ten years ago. Today, it's about 40%. In four years' time, that number will be trending very Swede-like.
But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.
America is just beginning this process. I looked at the rankings in Freedom in the 50 States published by George Mason University last month. New Hampshire came in Number One, the Freest State in the Nation, which all but certainly makes it the freest jurisdiction in the Western world. Which kind of depressed me. Because the Granite State feels less free to me than it did when I moved there, and you always hope there's somewhere else out there just in case things go belly up and you have to hit the road. And way down at the bottom in the last five places were Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the least free state in the Union by some distance, New York.
New York! How does the song go? "If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere!" If you can make it there, you're some kind of genius. "This is the worst fiscal downturn since the Great Depression," announced Governor Paterson a few weeks ago. So what's he doing? He's bringing in the biggest tax hike in New York history. If you can make it there, he can take it there—via state tax, sales tax, municipal tax, a doubled beer tax, a tax on clothing, a tax on cab rides, an "iTunes tax," a tax on haircuts, 137 new tax hikes in all. Call 1-800-I-HEART-NEW-YORK today and order your new package of state tax forms, for just $199.99, plus the 12% tax on tax forms and the 4% tax form application fee partially refundable upon payment of the 7.5% tax filing tax. If you can make it there, you'll certainly have no difficulty making it in Tajikistan.
New York, California... These are the great iconic American states, the ones we foreigners have heard of. To a penniless immigrant called Arnold Schwarzenegger, California was a land of plenty. Now Arnold is an immigrant of plenty in a penniless land: That's not an improvement. One of his predecessors as governor of California, Ronald Reagan, famously said, "We are a nation that has a government, not the other way around." In California, it's now the other way around: California is increasingly a government that has a state. And it is still in the early stages of the process. California has thirtysomething million people. The Province of Quebec has seven million people. Yet California and Quebec have roughly the same number of government workers. "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation," said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it's better to jump off the train as you're leaving the station and it's still picking up speed than when it's roaring down the track and you realize you've got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express.
"Indolence," in Machiavelli's word: There are stages to the enervation of free peoples. America, which held out against the trend, is now at Stage One: The benign paternalist state promises to make all those worries about mortgages, debt, and health care disappear. Every night of the week, you can switch on the TV and see one of these ersatz "town meetings" in which freeborn citizens of the republic (I use the term loosely) petition the Sovereign to make all the bad stuff go away. "I have an urgent need," a lady in Fort Myers beseeched the President. "We need a home, our own kitchen, our own bathroom." He took her name and ordered his staff to meet with her. Hopefully, he didn't insult her by dispatching some no-name deputy assistant associate secretary of whatever instead of flying in one of the bigtime tax-avoiding cabinet honchos to nationalize a Florida bank and convert one of its branches into a desirable family residence, with a swing set hanging where the drive-thru ATM used to be.
As all of you know, Hillsdale College takes no federal or state monies. That used to make it an anomaly in American education. It's in danger of becoming an anomaly in America, period. Maybe it's time for Hillsdale College to launch the Hillsdale Insurance Agency, the Hillsdale Motor Company and the First National Bank of Hillsdale. The executive supremo at Bank of America is now saying, oh, if only he'd known what he knows now, he wouldn't have taken the government money. Apparently it comes with strings attached. Who knew? Sure, Hillsdale College did, but nobody else.
If you're a business, when government gives you 2% of your income, it has a veto on 100% of what you do. If you're an individual, the impact is even starker. Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place. That's the argument behind, for example, mandatory motorcycle helmets, or the creepy teams of government nutritionists currently going door to door in Britain and conducting a "health audit" of the contents of your refrigerator. They're not yet confiscating your Twinkies; they just want to take a census of how many you have. So you do all this for the "free" health care—and in the end you may not get the "free" health care anyway. Under Britain's National Health Service, for example, smokers in Manchester have been denied treatment for heart disease, and the obese in Suffolk are refused hip and knee replacements. Patricia Hewitt, the British Health Secretary, says that it's appropriate to decline treatment on the basis of "lifestyle choices." Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his "lifestyle choices" get a pass while theirs don't. But that's the point: Tyranny is always whimsical.
And if they can't get you on grounds of your personal health, they'll do it on grounds of planetary health. Not so long ago in Britain it was proposed that each citizen should have a government-approved travel allowance. If you take one flight a year, you'll pay just the standard amount of tax on the journey. But, if you travel more frequently, if you take a second or third flight, you'll be subject to additional levies—in the interest of saving the planet for Al Gore's polar bear documentaries and that carbon-offset palace he lives in in Tennessee.
Isn't this the very definition of totalitarianism-lite? The Soviets restricted the movement of people through the bureaucratic apparatus of "exit visas." The British are proposing to do it through the bureaucratic apparatus of exit taxes—indeed, the bluntest form of regressive taxation. As with the Communists, the nomenklatura—the Prince of Wales, Al Gore, Madonna—will still be able to jet about hither and yon. What's a 20% surcharge to them? Especially as those for whom vast amounts of air travel are deemed essential—government officials, heads of NGOs, environmental activists—will no doubt be exempted from having to pay the extra amount. But the ghastly masses will have to stay home.
"Freedom of movement" used to be regarded as a bedrock freedom. The movement is still free, but there's now a government processing fee of $389.95. And the interesting thing about this proposal was that it came not from the Labour Party but the Conservative Party.
That's Stage Two of societal enervation—when the state as guarantor of all your basic needs becomes increasingly comfortable with regulating your behavior. Free peoples who were once willing to give their lives for liberty can be persuaded very quickly to relinquish their liberties for a quiet life. When President Bush talked about promoting democracy in the Middle East, there was a phrase he liked to use: "Freedom is the desire of every human heart." Really? It's unclear whether that's really the case in Gaza and the Pakistani tribal lands. But it's absolutely certain that it's not the case in Berlin and Paris, Stockholm and London, New Orleans and Buffalo. The story of the Western world since 1945 is that, invited to choose between freedom and government "security," large numbers of people vote to dump freedom every time—the freedom to make your own decisions about health care, education, property rights, and a ton of other stuff. It's ridiculous for grown men and women to say: I want to be able to choose from hundreds of cereals at the supermarket, thousands of movies from Netflix, millions of songs to play on my iPod—but I want the government to choose for me when it comes to my health care. A nation that demands the government take care of all the grown-up stuff is a nation turning into the world's wrinkliest adolescent, free only to choose its record collection.
And don't be too sure you'll get to choose your record collection in the end. That's Stage Three: When the populace has agreed to become wards of the state, it's a mere difference of degree to start regulating their thoughts. When my anglophone friends in the Province of Quebec used to complain about the lack of English signs in Quebec hospitals, my response was that, if you allow the government to be the sole provider of health care, why be surprised that they're allowed to decide the language they'll give it in? But, as I've learned during my year in the hellhole of Canadian "human rights" law, that's true in a broader sense. In the interests of "cultural protection," the Canadian state keeps foreign newspaper owners, foreign TV operators, and foreign bookstore owners out of Canada. Why shouldn't it, in return, assume the right to police the ideas disseminated through those newspapers, bookstores and TV networks it graciously agrees to permit?
When Maclean's magazine and I were hauled up in 2007 for the crime of "flagrant Islamophobia," it quickly became very clear that, for members of a profession that brags about its "courage" incessantly (far more than, say, firemen do), an awful lot of journalists are quite content to be the eunuchs in the politically correct harem. A distressing number of Western journalists see no conflict between attending lunches for World Press Freedom Day every month and agreeing to be micro-regulated by the state. The big problem for those of us arguing for classical liberalism is that in modern Canada there's hardly anything left that isn't on the state dripfeed to one degree or another: Too many of the institutions healthy societies traditionally look to as outposts of independent thought—churches, private schools, literature, the arts, the media—either have an ambiguous relationship with government or are downright dependent on it. Up north, "intellectual freedom" means the relevant film-funding agency—Cinedole Canada or whatever it's called—gives you a check to enable you to continue making so-called "bold, brave, transgressive" films that discombobulate state power not a whit.
And then comes Stage Four, in which dissenting ideas and even words are labeled as "hatred." In effect, the language itself becomes a means of control. Despite the smiley-face banalities, the tyranny becomes more naked: In Britain, a land with rampant property crime, undercover constables nevertheless find time to dine at curry restaurants on Friday nights to monitor adjoining tables lest someone in private conversation should make a racist remark. An author interviewed on BBC Radio expressed, very mildly and politely, some concerns about gay adoption and was investigated by Scotland Yard's Community Safety Unit for Homophobic, Racist and Domestic Incidents. A Daily Telegraph columnist is arrested and detained in a jail cell over a joke in a speech. A Dutch legislator is invited to speak at the Palace of Westminster by a member of the House of Lords, but is banned by the government, arrested on arrival at Heathrow and deported.
America, Britain, and even Canada are not peripheral nations: They're the three anglophone members of the G7. They're three of a handful of countries that were on the right side of all the great conflicts of the last century. But individual liberty flickers dimmer in each of them. The massive expansion of government under the laughable euphemism of "stimulus" (Stage One) comes with a quid pro quo down the line (Stage Two): Once you accept you're a child in the government nursery, why shouldn't Nanny tell you what to do? And then—Stage Three—what to think? And—Stage Four—what you're forbidden to think . . . .
Which brings us to the final stage: As I said at the beginning, Big Government isn't about the money. It's more profound than that. A couple of years back Paul Krugman wrote a column in The New York Times asserting that, while parochial American conservatives drone on about "family values," the Europeans live it, enacting policies that are more "family friendly." On the Continent, claims the professor, "government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff-to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family."
As befits a distinguished economist, Professor Krugman failed to notice that for a continent of "family friendly" policies, Europe is remarkably short of families. While America's fertility rate is more or less at replacement level—2.1—seventeen European nations are at what demographers call "lowest-low" fertility—1.3 or less—a rate from which no society in human history has ever recovered. Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Greeks have upside-down family trees: four grandparents have two children and one grandchild. How can an economist analyze "family friendly" policies without noticing that the upshot of these policies is that nobody has any families?
As for all that extra time, what happened? Europeans work fewer hours than Americans, they don't have to pay for their own health care, they're post-Christian so they don't go to church, they don't marry and they don't have kids to take to school and basketball and the 4-H stand at the county fair. So what do they do with all the time?
Forget for the moment Europe's lack of world-beating companies: They regard capitalism as an Anglo-American fetish, and they mostly despise it. But what about the things Europeans supposedly value? With so much free time, where is the great European art? Where are Europe's men of science? At American universities. Meanwhile, Continental governments pour fortunes into prestigious white elephants of Euro-identity, like the Airbus A380, capable of carrying 500, 800, a thousand passengers at a time, if only somebody somewhere would order the darn thing, which they might consider doing once all the airports have built new runways to handle it.
"Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," wrote Charles Murray in In Our Hands. "When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do, ideas of greatness become an irritant. Such is the nature of the Europe syndrome."
The key word here is "give." When the state "gives" you plenty—when it takes care of your health, takes cares of your kids, takes care of your elderly parents, takes care of every primary responsibility of adulthood—it's not surprising that the citizenry cease to function as adults: Life becomes a kind of extended adolescence—literally so for those Germans who've mastered the knack of staying in education till they're 34 and taking early retirement at 42. Hilaire Belloc, incidentally, foresaw this very clearly in his book The Servile State in 1912. He understood that the long-term cost of a welfare society is the infantilization of the population.
Genteel decline can be very agreeable—initially: You still have terrific restaurants, beautiful buildings, a great opera house. And once the pressure's off it's nice to linger at the sidewalk table, have a second café au lait and a pain au chocolat, and watch the world go by. At the Munich Security Conference in February, President Sarkozy demanded of his fellow Continentals, "Does Europe want peace, or do we want to be left in peace?" To pose the question is to answer it. Alas, it only works for a generation or two. And it's hard to come up with a wake-up call for a society as dedicated as latterday Europe to the belief that life is about sleeping in.
As Gerald Ford liked to say when trying to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." And that's true. But there's an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn't big enough to get you to give any of it back. That's the position European governments find themselves in. Their citizens have become hooked on unaffordable levels of social programs which in the end will put those countries out of business. Just to get the Social Security debate in perspective, projected public pension liabilities are expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8% of GDP in the U.S. In Greece, the figure is 25%—i.e., total societal collapse. So what? shrug the voters. Not my problem. I want my benefits. The crisis isn't the lack of money, but the lack of citizens—in the meaningful sense of that word.
Every Democrat running for election tells you they want to do this or that "for the children." If America really wanted to do something "for the children," it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a leviathan of bloated bureaucracy and unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme. That's the real "war on children" (to use another Democrat catchphrase)—and every time you bulk up the budget you make it less and less likely they'll win it.
Conservatives often talk about "small government," which, in a sense, is framing the issue in leftist terms: they're for big government. But small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline. To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult. The inertia, the ennui, the fatalism is more pathetic than the demographic decline and fiscal profligacy of the social democratic state, because it's subtler and less tangible. But once in a while it swims into very sharp focus. Here is the writer Oscar van den Boogaard from an interview with the Belgian paper De Standaard. Mr. van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay "humanist" (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool), was reflecting on the accelerating Islamification of the Continent and concluding that the jig was up for the Europe he loved. "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." In the famous Kubler-Ross five stages of grief, Mr. van den Boogard is past denial, anger, bargaining and depression, and has arrived at a kind of acceptance.
"I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it." Sorry, doesn't work—not for long. Back in New Hampshire, General Stark knew that. Mr. van den Boogard's words are an epitaph for Europe. Whereas New Hampshire's motto—"Live free or die!"—is still the greatest rallying cry for this state or any other. About a year ago, there was a picture in the papers of Iranian students demonstrating in Tehran and waving placards. And what they'd written on those placards was: "Live free or die!" They understand the power of those words; so should we.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Decrying judicial activism, Robert Bork says choosing Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court was 'a bad mistake.'
By: Stuart Taylor Jr.
His name has become a verb, one so crisp and eloquent that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary: if you've been blocked from appointment to public office, you've been "borked." The term's namesake is Robert Bork, whose path to the Supreme Court was derailed in 1987 by a hostile Senate. As Sonia Sotomayor braces for the same firing line, Bork, 82, sat down with NEWSWEEK for a rare interview. Excerpts:
President Obama has spoken of empathy as his key standard for choosing judicial nominees. What do you think of that approach?
I don't know exactly what empathy means. I suppose at a minimum it means you want a judge who will depart from the meaning of the constitution when a sympathetic case arises. It does seem to raise a warning that we're talking about a judge who does not follow the law.
And I take it that you don't approve?
You are quite correct.
What are your thoughts about Judge Sotomayor's nomination?
I think it was a bad mistake. Her comments about the wise Latina suggest identity-group jurisprudence. She also has a reputation for bullying counsel. And her record is not particularly distinguished. Far from it. And it is unusual to nominate somebody who states flatly that she was the beneficiary of affirmative action. But I can't believe she will be any worse than some recent white male appointees.
Anyone you'd care to name?
I could, but you don't want the estate of these people suing me, do you?
As it's currently composed, this is sometimes called a conservative court.
I don't see it at all. It's a very left-leaning, liberal court.
Could you elaborate? Compared to what?
Well, compared to what the Constitution actually says. They tend to enact the agenda or the preferences of a group that thinks of itself as the intellectual elite.
How have you been struck by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito since they were appointed?
My general impression of them is quite good. The justice up there who I most admire is Clarence Thomas. I notice that when he and Scalia differ—it's not that often, but when they do—I tend to agree with Thomas.
What's the responsible approach for Senate Republicans now to take if they share some of the concerns you've expressed about Judge Sotomayor?
I don't think they ought to filibuster. That would be very bad press for them. But I don't think deferring to the president is always a good idea. I would suggest that they air the issue so that people understand what the objection is. And then vote against, which will not affect anything. Or, if they air the issue thoroughly, some could even vote in favor of confirmation. But you've got to be clear what the problem is.
Any particular issues or cases come to mind?
No. I've read them, but I no longer worry about those things, because I don't teach it anymore. In fact I refuse to teach constitutional law, because it's so obviously politics and not law. The incoherence of some of those opinions is astounding. If you want to know what the constitution means, you will not learn it from the court.
Can you describe your judicial philospohy?
Well what it is is originalism. Which means you try to interpret the Constitution according to the principles as they were originally understood by the people who drafted it, by the people who voted for it. And that's neither conservative or liberal. But the court has moved so far to the left that any correction back to the proper central position would look like conservative activism to some people.
Is there a principled definition of what judicial activism is?
Sure. A judge is an activist when he announces principles or reaches results that cannot plausibly be related to the actual Constitution.
On another front, the court has decided three cases against the Bush administration on Guantanamo, the most recent one giving habeas corpus rights to supposed enemy combatants. What do you make of that whole line of cases?
It strikes me as preposterous to begin to extend rights to enemy combatants that we never extended to captured Germans, Italians and Japanese in World War II. It's also dangerous once we begin to judicialize the conduct of a war. It can only make our forces less effective. But something has changed in the attitude. I think it was the invasion of Grenada, when a commanding officer refused to let the press come to the front lines, and a reporter said "in World War II we were allowed in the front lines," and the commander said "in World War II you were on our side."
Your own confirmation hearing in 1987 is often called a watershed for the process.
It wouldn't have been but for the fact that I looked like the fifth vote to overrule Roe v. Wade. And in modern politics, that is a subject that raises hysteria.
Would you have been the fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?
Oh, of course. It's one of the most corrupt decisions I've ever seen.
Was it your view that the law on abortion should be left totally to the democratic process?
I oppose abortion. But an amazing number of people thought that I would outlaw abortion. They didn't understand that not only did I have no desire to do that, but I had no power to do it. If you overrule Roe v. Wade, abortion does not become illegal. State legislatures take on the subject. The abortion issue has produced divisions and bitterness in our politics that countries don't have where abortion is decided by legislatures. And both sides go home, after a compromise, and attempt to try again next year. And as a result, it's not nearly the explosive issue as it is here where the court has grabbed it and taken it away from the voters.
What was it like being in the middle of that confirmation hearing? It's fair to say that you were attacked from coast to coast.
It was really quite harrowing. It got to the point where I could not read the paper because every reference to the proceedings was really adverse to me. So I quit reading everything but the sports section. And then one of the sportswriters took a crack at me. [Laughs.] This kind of stuff was new to my wife, and so she wanted us to read a psalm every morning. I finally came to one about praying to God to break the teeth of my enemies. That seemed to be an adequate sentiment.
I recall one of the people who were working on your confirmation hearings said that "you didn't really prepare for a knife fight."
The White House didn't do anything. They didn't offer any advice. In fact, the only people I talked to in the administration said I was doing fine. [Laughs.] I guess I wasn't doing fine. The way I was painted by the adversary camp and the news media and so forth, Sen. [Howard] Metzenbaum asked, "Why do women fear Judge Bork?" And [Attorney General] William French Smith responded, "Because they've been lied to."
Monday, June 22, 2009
50,000 people go to a baseball game, but the game was rained out. A refund was then due. The team was about to mail refunds when a congressional committee stopped them and suggested that they send out the ticket refunds based upon the congressional interpretation of fairness.
Originally the refunds were to be paid based on the price each person had paid for the tickets. Unfortunately that meant most of the refund money would be going to the ticket holders that had purchased the most expensive tickets. This, according to the committee, is considered totally unfair.
A decision was then made to pay out the refunds in the following manner:
-People in the $10 seats will get back $15. After all, they have less money to spend on tickets to begin with. Call it an "Earned Income Ticket Credit." People "earn" it by having few skills, poor work habits, and low ambition, thus keeping them at entry-level wages.
-People in the $25 seats will get back $25, because it "seems fair."
-People in the $50 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot of money and don't need a refund. After all, if they can afford a $50 ticket, they must not be paying enough taxes.
-People in the $75 luxury box seats will each have to pay an additional $25 because it's the "right thing to do."
-People walking past the stadium that couldn't afford to buy a ticket for the game each will get a $10 refund, even though they didn't pay anything for the tickets. They need the most help. Sometimes this is known as Affirmative Action.
Now do you understand? If not, contact your congressional representative for further clarification.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."
-Robert A. Heinlein
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Young Chuck moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. The next day the farmer drove up and said, "Sorry Chuck, but I have some bad news. The donkey died.'"
Chuck replied, "Well then, just give me my money back."
The farmer said," 'Can't do that. I went and spent it already."
Chuck said, "OK, then, just bring me the dead donkey."
The farmer asked, "What ya gonna do with a dead donkey?"
Chuck said, "I'm going to raffle him off."
The farmer said, "You can't raffle off a dead donkey!"
Chuck said, "Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead."
A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, "What happened with that dead donkey?" Chuck said, "I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and made a profit of $898.00."
The farmer said, "Didn't anyone complain?" Chuck said, "Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back."
Chuck now works for Morgan Stanley.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The sin tax seems like a convenient ploy when the state is searching for new sources of revenue in fiscally tight times. A sin tax also appeals to some voters who view it as a way of discouraging consumption of certain objectionable products. Yet the temptation to impose sin taxes is one that should be resisted for economic and moral reasons. The consequences of the sin tax are often the very opposite of those intended by its designers. Rather than increasing revenue, the sin tax can reduce it. Rather than discouraging what are regarded as morally questionable behaviors, the sin tax can make them more appealing. Rather than reducing what are perceived to be internal costs of the sin, the sin tax can increase them and expand them to society as a whole.Read the entire article here.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Okay, I've seen enough chain letters discussing the cause of our economic woes, and they're all incorrect, so I figured it was time to write one that addressed the real issues. I've written this in plain English and have taken out any technical mumbo-jumbo so people will be able to understand it clearly. So, even though I will be leaving out some details everything in this message will be fundamentally true.
Okay, if you want to understand the problem we have with money in this country, you're going to have to understand 3 things:
1. Who makes our money.
2. How money comes into existence.
3. Inflation is nothing but a tax.
In today's Wall Street Journal opinion column, there is a great article on how Obama scored big at Notre Dame with his involvement with the graduation and commencement exercises.
Seldom does dawn rise on an America where the morning's New York Times displays a more intuitive grasp of a story than the New York Post. The coverage of Barack Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame, however, was such a day. Where the Post headlined an inside spread with "Obama In the Lions' Den," the Times front page was dominated by a color photograph of a beaming president, resplendent in his blue-and-gold Notre Dame academic gown, reaching out to graduates eager to shake his hand or just touch his robe.How true it is.
It was precisely the message President Obama wanted to send: How bad can he be on abortion if Notre Dame is willing to honor him?
We cannot blame the president for this one. During his campaign for president, Mr. Obama spoke honestly about the aggressive pro-choice agenda he intended to pursue -- as he assured Planned Parenthood, he was "about playing offense," not defense -- and his actions have been consistent with that pledge. If only our nation's premier Catholic university were as forthright in advancing its principles as Mr. Obama has been for his.
In a letter to Notre Dame's Class of 2009, the university's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, stated that the honors for Mr. Obama do not indicate any "ambiguity" about Notre Dame's commitment to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life. The reality is that it was this ambiguity that the White House was counting on; this ambiguity that was furthered by the adoring reaction to Mr. Obama's visit; and this ambiguity that disheartens those working for an America that respects the dignity of life inside the womb.
We've been here before. In his response to an inquiry from this reporter, Dennis Brown, the university's spokesman, wisely ignored a question asking whether "ambiguity" would be the word to describe a similar decision in 1984 to give Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York, the Notre Dame platform he so famously used to advance his personally-opposed-but argument. Or the decision a few years later to bestow its highest Catholic award on Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another supporter of legal abortion. It seems that whenever Democratic leaders find themselves in trouble over their party's abortion record, some Notre Dame honor or platform will be forthcoming to provide the needed cover.
Probably Notre Dame is rich enough that it can safely thumb its institutional nose at the 70 or so bishops who publicly challenged the university for flouting their guidelines on such invitations. Nor can we expect much from Notre Dame's trustees. At a time when Americans all across this country have declared themselves "yea" or "nay" on the Obama invite, the reaction of Notre Dame's board is less the roar of the lion than the silence of the lambs.
Pro-lifers are used to this. They know their stand makes them unglamorous. They find themselves a stumbling block to Democratic progressives -- and unwelcome at the Republican country club. And they are especially desperate for the support of institutions willing to engage in the clear, thoughtful and unembarrassed way that even Mr. Obama says we should.
With its billions in endowment and its prestigious name, Notre Dame ought to be in the lead here. But when asked for examples illuminating the university's unambiguous support for unborn life, Mr. Brown could provide only four: help for pregnant students who want to carry their babies to term, student volunteer work for pregnant women at local shelters, prayer mentions at campus Masses, and lectures such as a seminar on life issues.
These are all well and good, but they also highlight the poverty of Notre Dame's institutional witness. At Notre Dame today, there is no pro-life organization -- in size, in funding, in prestige -- that compares with the many centers, institutes and so forth dedicated to other important issues ranging from peace and justice to protecting the environment. Perhaps this explains why a number of pro-life professors tell me they must not be quoted by name, lest they face career retaliation.
The one institute that does put the culture of life at the heart of its work, moreover -- the Center for Ethics and Culture -- doesn't even merit a link under the "Faith and Service" section on the university's Web site. The point is this: When Notre Dame doesn't dress for the game, the field is left to those like Randall Terry who create a spectacle and declare their contempt for civil and respectful witness.
In the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian, there is a wonderful photograph of Father Ted Hesburgh -- then Notre Dame president -- linking hands with Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1964 civil-rights rally at Chicago's Soldier Field. Today, nearly four decades and 50 million abortions after Roe v. Wade, there is no photograph of similar prominence of any Notre Dame president taking a lead at any of the annual marches for life.
Father Jenkins is right: That's not ambiguity. That's a statement.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance."
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
"Liberty without Learning is always in peril and Learning without Liberty is always in vain."
— John F. Kennedy
Saturday, April 25, 2009
By Joe Sobran
One of the great goals of education is to initiate the young into the conversation of their ancestors; to enable them to understand the language of that conversation, in all its subtlety, and maybe even, in their maturity, to add to it some wisdom of their own.
The modern American educational system no longer teaches us the political language of our ancestors. In fact our schooling helps widen the gulf of time between our ancestors and ourselves, because much of what we are taught in the name of civics, political science, or American history is really modern liberal propaganda. Sometimes this is deliberate. Worse yet, sometimes it isn’t. Our ancestral voices have come to sound alien to us, and therefore our own moral and political language is impoverished. It’s as if the people of England could no longer understand Shakespeare, or Germans couldn’t comprehend Mozart and Beethoven.
So to most Americans, even those who feel oppressed by what they call big government, it must sound strange to hear it said, in the past tense, that tyranny “came” to America. After all, we have a constitution, don’t we? We’ve abolished slavery and segregation. We won two world wars and the Cold War. We still congratulate ourselves before every ballgame on being the Land of the Free. And we aren’t ruled by some fanatic with a funny mustache who likes big parades with thousands of soldiers goose-stepping past huge pictures of himself.
For all that, we no longer fully have what our ancestors, who framed and ratified our Constitution, thought of as freedom — a careful division of power that prevents power from becoming concentrated and unlimited. The word they usually used for concentrated power was consolidated — a rough synonym for fascist. And the words they used for any excessive powers claimed or exercised by the state were usurped and tyrannical. They would consider the modern “liberal” state tyrannical in principle; they would see in it not the opposite of the fascist, communist, and socialist states, but their sister.
If Washington and Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton could come back, the first thing they’d notice would be that the federal government now routinely assumes thousands of powers never assigned to it — powers never granted, never delegated, never enumerated. These were the words they used, and it’s a good idea for us to learn their language. They would say that we no longer live under the Constitution they wrote. And the Americans of a much later era — the period from Cleveland to Coolidge, for example — would say we no longer live even under the Constitution they inherited and amended.
I call the present system “Post–Constitutional America.” As I sometimes put it, the U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.
What’s worse is that our constitutional illiteracy cuts us off from our own national heritage. And so our politics degenerates into increasingly bitter and unprincipled quarrels about who is going to bear the burdens of war and welfare.
I don’t want to sound like an oracle on this subject. As a typical victim of modern public education and a disinformed citizen of this media-ridden country, I took a long time — an embarrassingly long time — to learn what I’m passing on. It was like studying geometry in old age, and discovering how simple the basic principles of space really are. It was the old story: In order to learn, first I had to unlearn. Most of what I’d been taught and told about the Constitution was misguided or even false. And I’d never been told some of the most elementary things, which would have saved me a tremendous amount of confusion.
The Constitution does two things. First, it delegates certain enumerated powers to the federal government. Second, it separates those powers among the three branches. Most people understand the secondary principle of the separation of powers. But they don’t grasp the primary idea of delegated and enumerated powers.
Consider this. We have recently had a big national debate over national health care. Advocates and opponents argued long and loud over whether it could work, what was fair, how to pay for it, and so forth. But almost nobody raised the basic issue: Where does the federal government get the power to legislate in this area? The answer is: Nowhere. The Constitution lists 18 specific legislative powers of Congress, and not a one of them covers national health care.
As a matter of fact, none of the delegated powers of Congress — and delegated is always the key word — covers Social Security, or Medicaid, or Medicare, or federal aid to education, or most of what are now miscalled “civil rights,” or countless public works projects, or equally countless regulations of business, large and small, or the space program, or farm subsidies, or research grants, or subsidies to the arts and humanities, or ... well, you name it, chances are it’s unconstitutional. Even the most cynical opponents of the Constitution would be dumbfounded to learn that the federal government now tells us where we can smoke. We are less free, more heavily taxed, and worse governed than our ancestors under British rule. Sometimes this government makes me wonder: Was George III really all that bad?
Let’s be clear about one thing. Constitutional and unconstitutional aren’t just simple terms of approval and disapproval. A bad law may be perfectly constitutional. A wise and humane law may be unconstitutional. But what is almost certainly bad is a constant disposition to thwart or disregard the Constitution.
It’s not just a matter of what is sometimes called the “original intent” of the authors of the Constitution. What really matters is the common, explicit, unchallenged understanding of the Constitution, on all sides, over several generations. There was no mystery about it.
The logic of the Constitution was so elegantly simple that a foreign observer could explain it to his countrymen in two sentences. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “the attributes of the federal government were carefully defined [in the Constitution], and all that was not included among them was declared to remain to the governments of the individual states. Thus the government of the states remained the rule, and that of the federal government the exception.”
The Declaration of Independence, which underlies the Constitution, holds that the rights of the people come from God, and that the powers of the government come from the people. Let me repeat that: According to the Declaration of Independence, the rights of the people come from God, and the powers of the government come from the people. Unless you grasp this basic order of things, you’ll have a hard time understanding the Constitution.
The Constitution was the instrument by which the American people granted, or delegated, certain specific powers to the federal government. Any power not delegated was withheld, or “reserved.” As we’ll see later, these principles are expressed particularly in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, two crucial but neglected provisions of the Constitution.
Let me say it yet again: The rights of the people come from God. The powers of government come from the people. The American people delegated the specific powers they wanted the federal government to have through the Constitution. And any additional powers they wanted to grant were supposed to be added by amendment.
It’s largely because we’ve forgotten these simple principles that the country is in so much trouble. The powers of the federal government have multiplied madly, with only the vaguest justifications and on the most slippery pretexts. Its chief business now is not defending our rights but taking and redistributing our wealth. It has even created its own economy, the tax economy, which is parasitical on the basic and productive voluntary economy. Even much of what passes for “national defense” is a kind of hidden entitlement program, as was illustrated when President George Bush warned some states during the 1992 campaign that Bill Clinton would destroy jobs by closing down military bases. Well, if those bases aren’t necessary for our defense, they should be closed down.
Now of course nobody in American politics, not even the most fanatical liberal, will admit openly that he doesn’t care what the Constitution says and isn’t going to let it interfere with his agenda. Everyone professes to respect it — even the Supreme Court. That’s the problem. The U.S. Constitution serves the same function as the British royal family: it offers a comforting symbol of tradition and continuity, thereby masking a radical change in the actual system of power.
So the people who mean to do without the Constitution have come up with a slogan to keep up appearances: they say the Constitution is a “living document,” which sounds like a compliment. They say it has “evolved” in response to “changing circumstances,” etc. They sneer at the idea that such a mystic document could still have the same meanings it had two centuries ago, or even, I guess, sixty years ago, just before the evolutionary process started accelerating with fantastic velocity. These people, who tend with suspicious consistency to be liberals, have discovered that the Constitution, whatever it may have meant in the past, now means — again, with suspicious consistency — whatever suits their present convenience.
Do liberals want big federal entitlement programs? Lo, the Interstate Commerce Clause turns out to mean that the big federal programs are constitutional! Do liberals oppose capital punishment? Lo, the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” turns out to mean that capital punishment is unconstitutional! Do liberals want abortion on demand? Lo, the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, plus their emanations and penumbras, turn out to mean that abortion is nothing less than a woman’s constitutional right!
Can all this be blind evolution? If liberals were more religious, they might suspect the hand of Providence behind it! This marvelous “living document” never seems to impede the liberal agenda in any way. On the contrary: it always seems to demand, by a wonderful coincidence, just what liberals are prescribing on other grounds.
Take abortion. Set aside your own views and feelings about it. Is it really possible that, as the Supreme Court in effect said, all the abortion laws of all 50 states — no matter how restrictive, no matter how permissive — had always been unconstitutional? Not only that, but no previous Court, no justice on any Court in all our history — not Marshall, not Story, not Taney, not Holmes, not Hughes, not Frankfurter, not even Warren — had ever been recorded as doubting the constitutionality of those laws. Everyone had always taken it for granted that the states had every right to enact them.
Are we supposed to believe, in all seriousness, that the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade was a response to the text of the Constitution, the discernment of a meaning that had eluded all its predecessors, rather than an enactment of the current liberal agenda? Come now.
And notice that the parts of this “living document” don’t develop equally or consistently. The Court has expanded the meaning of some of liberalism’s pet rights, such as freedom of speech, to absurd lengths; but it has neglected or even contracted other rights, such as property rights, which liberalism is hostile to.
In order to appreciate what has happened, you have to stand back from all the details and look at the outline. What follows is a thumbnail history of the Constitution.
In the beginning the states were independent and sovereign. That is why they were called “states”: a state was not yet thought of as a mere subdivision of a larger unit, as is the case now. The universal understanding was that in ratifying the Constitution, the 13 states yielded a very little of their sovereignty, but kept most of it.
Those who were reluctant to ratify generally didn’t object to the powers the Constitution delegated to the federal government. But they were suspicious: they wanted assurance that if those few powers were granted, other powers, never granted, wouldn’t be seized too. In The Federalist, Hamilton and Madison argued at some length that under the proposed distribution of power the federal government would never be able to “usurp,” as they put it, those other powers. Madison wrote soothingly in Federalist No. 45 that the powers of the federal government would be “few and defined,” relating mostly to war and foreign policy, while those remaining with the states would be “numerous and indefinite,” and would have to do with the everyday domestic life of the country. The word usurpation occurs numberless times in the ratification debates, reflecting the chief anxiety the champions of the Constitution had to allay. And as a final assurance, the Tenth Amendment stipulated that the powers not “delegated” to the federal government were “reserved” to the separate states and to the people.
But this wasn’t enough to satisfy everyone. Well-grounded fears persisted. And during the first half of the nineteenth century, nearly every president, in his inaugural message, felt it appropriate to renew the promise that the powers of the federal government would not be exceeded, nor the reserved powers of the states transgressed. The federal government was to remain truly federal, with only a few specified powers, rather than “consolidated,” with unlimited powers.
The Civil War, or the War Between the States if you like, resulted from the suspicion that the North meant to use the power of the Union to destroy the sovereignty of the Southern states. Whether or not that suspicion was justified, the war itself produced that very result. The South was subjugated and occupied like a conquered country. Its institutions were profoundly remade by the federal government; the United States of America was taking on the character of an extensive, and highly centralized, empire. Similar processes were under way in Europe, as small states were consolidated into large ones, setting the stage for the tyrannies and gigantic wars of the twentieth century.
Even so, the three constitutional amendment ratified after the war contain a significant clause: “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Why is this significant? Because it shows that even the conquerors still understood that a new power of Congress required a constitutional amendment. It couldn’t just be taken by majority vote, as it would be today. If the Congress then had wanted a national health plan, it would have begun by asking the people for an amendment to the Constitution authorizing it to legislate in the area of health care. The immediate purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to provide a constitutional basis for a proposed civil rights act.
But the Supreme Court soon found other uses for the Fourteenth Amendment. It began striking down state laws as unconstitutional. This was an important new twist in American constitutional law. Hamilton, in arguing for judicial review in Federalist No. 78, had envisioned the Court as a check on Congress, resisting the illicit consolidation or centralization of power. And our civics books still describe the function of checks and balances in terms of the three branches of the federal government mutually controlling each other. But in fact, the Court was now countermanding the state legislatures, where the principle of checks and balances had no meaning, since those state legislatures had no reciprocal control on the Court. This development eventually set the stage for the convulsive Supreme Court rulings of the late twentieth century, from Brown v. Board of Education to Roe v. Wade.
The big thing to recognize here is that the Court had become the very opposite of the institution Hamilton and others had had in mind. Instead of blocking the centralization of power in the federal government, the Court was assisting it.
The original point of the federal system was that the federal government would have very little to say about the internal affairs of the states. But the result of the Civil War was that the federal government had a great deal to say about those affairs — in Northern as well as Southern states.
Note that this trend toward centralization was occurring largely under Republican presidents. The Democrat Grover Cleveland was one of the last great spokesmen for federalism. He once vetoed a modest $10,000 federal grant for drought relief on grounds that there was no constitutional power to do it. If that sounds archaic, remember that the federal principle remained strong long enough that during the 1950s, the federal highway program had to be called a “defense” measure in order to win approval, and federal loans to college students in the 1960s were absurdly called “defense” loans for the same reason. The Tenth Amendment is a refined taste, but it has always had a few devotees.
But federalism suffered some serious wounds during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. First came the income tax, its constitutionality established by the Sixteenth Amendment; this meant that every U.S. citizen was now, for the first time, directly accountable to the federal government. Then the Seventeenth Amendment required that senators be elected by popular vote rather than chosen by state legislators; this meant that the states no longer had their own representation in Congress, so that they now lost their remaining control over the federal government. The Eighteenth Amendment, establishing Prohibition, gave the federal government even greater powers over the country’s internal affairs. All these amendments were ominous signs that federalism was losing its traditional place in the hearts, and perhaps the minds, of Americans.
But again, notice that these expansions of federal power were at least achieved by amending the Constitution, as the Constitution itself requires. The Constitution doesn’t claim to be a “living document.” It is written on paper, not rubber.
In fact the radicals of the early twentieth century despaired of achieving socialism or communism as long as the Constitution remained. They regarded it as the critical obstacle to their plans, and thought a revolution would be necessary to remove it. As The New Republic wrote: “To have a socialist society we must have a new Constitution.” That’s laying it on the line!
Unfortunately, the next generation of collectivists would be less candid in their contempt for the federal system. Once they learned to feign devotion to the Constitution they secretly regarded as obsolete, the laborious formality of amendment would no longer be necessary. They could merely pretend that the Constitution was on their side. After Franklin Roosevelt restaffed the Supreme Court with his compliant cronies, the federal government would be free to make up its own powers as it went along, thanks to the notion that the Constitution was a malleable “living document,” whose central meaning could be changed, and even reversed, by ingenious interpretation.
Roosevelt’s New Deal brought fascist-style central planning to America — what some call the “mixed economy” but Hilaire Belloc called the Servile State — and his highhanded approach to governance soon led to conflict with the Court, which found several of his chief measures unconstitutional. Early in his second term, as you know, Roosevelt retaliated by trying to “pack” the Court by increasing the number of seats. This power play alienated even many of his allies, but it turned out not to be necessary. After 1937 the Court began seeing things Roosevelt’s way. It voted as he wished; several members obligingly retired; and soon he had appointed a majority of the justices. The country virtually got a new Constitution.
Roosevelt’s Court soon decided that the Tenth Amendment was a “truism,” of no real force. This meant that almost any federal act was ipso facto constitutional, and the powers “reserved” to the states and the people were just leftovers the federal government didn’t want, like the meal left for the jackals by the satisfied lion. There was almost no limit, now, on what the federal government could do. In effect, the powers of the federal government no longer had to come from the people by constitutional delegation: they could be created by simple political power.
Roosevelt also set the baneful precedent of using entitlement programs, such as Social Security, to buy some people’s votes with other people’s money. It was both a fatal corruption of democracy and the realization of the Servile State in America. The class of voting parasites has been swelling ever since.
So the New Deal didn’t just expand the power of the federal government; that had been done before. The New Deal did much deeper mischief: it struck at the whole principle of constitutional resistance to federal expansion. Congress didn’t need any constitutional amendment to increase its powers; it could increase its own powers ad hoc, at any time, by simple majority vote.
All this, of course, would have seemed monstrous to our ancestors. Even Alexander Hamilton, who favored a relatively strong central government in his time, never dreamed of a government so powerful.
The Court suffered a bloody defeat at Roosevelt’s hands, and since his time it has never found a major act of Congress unconstitutional. This has allowed the power of the federal government to grow without restraint. At the federal level, “checks and balances” has ceased to include judicial review.
This is a startling fact, flying as it does in the face of the familiar conservative complaints about the Court’s “activism.” When it comes to Congress, the Court has been absolutely passive. As if to compensate for its habit of capitulation to Congress, the Court’s post–World War II “activism” has been directed entirely against the states, whose laws it has struck down in areas that used to be considered their settled and exclusive provinces. Time after time, it has found “unconstitutional” laws whose legitimacy had stood unquestioned throughout the history of the Republic.
Notice how total the reversal of the Court’s role has been. It began with the duty, according to Hamilton, of striking down new seizures of power by Congress. Now it finds constitutional virtually everything Congress chooses to do. The federal government has assumed myriads of new powers nowhere mentioned or implied in the Constitution, yet the Court has never seriously impeded this expansion, or rather explosion, of novel claims of power. What it finds unconstitutional are the traditional powers of the states.
The postwar Court has done pioneering work in one notable area: the separation of church and state. I said “pioneering,” not praiseworthy. The Court has consistently imposed an understanding of the First Amendment that is not only exaggerated but unprecedented — most notoriously in its 1962 ruling that prayer in public schools amounts to an “establishment of religion.” This interpretation of the Establishment Clause has always been to the disadvantage of Christianity and of any law with roots in Christian morality. And it’s impossible to doubt that the justices who voted for this interpretation were voting their predilections.
Maybe that’s the point. I’ve never heard it put quite this way, but the Court’s boldest rulings showed something less innocent than a series of honest mistakes. Studying these cases and others of the Court’s liberal heyday, one never gets the sense that the majority was suppressing its own preferences; it was clearly enacting them. Those rulings can be described as wishful thinking run amok, and touched with more than a little arrogance. All in all, the Court displayed the opposite of the restrained and impartial temperament one expects even of a traffic-court judge, let alone a Supreme Court.
It’s ironic to recall Hamilton’s assurance that the Supreme Court would be “the least dangerous” of the three branches of the federal government. But Hamilton did give us a shrewd warning about what would happen if the Court were ever corrupted: in Federalist No. 78 he wrote that “liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other [branches].” Since Franklin Roosevelt, as I’ve said, the judiciary has in effect formed a union with the other two branches to aggrandize the power of the federal government at the expense of the states and the people.
This, in outline, is the constitutional history of the United States. You won’t find it in the textbooks, which are required to be optimistic, to present degeneration as development, and to treat the successive pronouncements of the Supreme Court as so many oracular revelations of constitutional meaning. A leading liberal scholar, Leonard Levy, has gone so far as to say that what matters is not what the Constitution says, but what the Court has said about the Constitution in more than 400 volumes of commentary.
This can only mean that the commentary has displaced the original text, and that “We the People” have been supplanted by “We the Lawyers.” We the People can’t read and understand our own Constitution. We have to have it explained to us by the professionals. Moreover, if the Court enjoys oracular status, it can’t really be criticized, because it can do no wrong. We may dislike its results, but future rulings will have to be derived from them as precedents, rather than from the text and logic of the Constitution. And notice that the “conservative” justices appointed by Republican presidents have by and large upheld not the original Constitution, but the most liberal interpretations of the Court itself — notably on the subject of abortion, which I’ll return to in a minute.
To sum up this little constitutional history. The history of the Constitution is the story of its inversion. The original understanding of the Constitution has been reversed. The Constitution creates a presumption against any power not plainly delegated to the federal government and a corresponding presumption in favor of the rights and powers of the states and the people. But we now have a sloppy presumption in favor of federal power. Most people assume the federal government can do anything it isn’t plainly forbidden to do.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments were adopted to make the principle of the Constitution as clear as possible. Hamilton, you know, argued against adding a Bill of Rights, on grounds that it would be redundant and confusing. He thought it would seem to imply that the federal government had more powers than it had been given. Why say, he asked, that the freedom of the press shall not be infringed, when the federal government would have no power by which it could be infringed? And you can even make the case that he was exactly right. He understood, at any rate, that our freedom is safer if we think of the Constitution as a list of powers rather than as a list of rights.
Be that as it may, the Bill of Rights was adopted, but it was designed to meet his objection. The Ninth Amendment says: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Tenth says: “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.”
Now what these two provisions mean is pretty simple. The Ninth means that the list of the people’s rights in the Constitution is not meant to be complete — that they still have many other rights, like the right to travel or to marry, which may deserve just as much respect as the right not to have soldiers quartered in one’s home in peacetime. The Tenth, on the other hand, means that the list of powers “delegated” to the federal government is complete — and that any other powers the government assumed would be, in the Framers’ habitual word, “usurped.”
As I said earlier, the Founders believed that our rights come from God, and the government’s powers come from us. So the Constitution can’t list all our rights, but it can and does list all the federal government’s powers.
You can think of the Constitution as a sort of antitrust act for government, with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments at its core. It’s remarkable that the same liberals who think business monopolies are sinister think monopolies of political power are progressive. When they can’t pass their programs because of the constitutional safeguards, they complain about “gridlock” — a cliché that shows they miss the whole point of the enumeration and separation of powers.
Well, I don’t have to tell you that this way of thinking is absolutely alien to that of today’s politicians and pundits. Can you imagine Al Gore, Dan Rostenkowski, or Tom Brokaw having a conversation about political principles with any of the Founding Fathers? If you can, you must have a vivid fantasy life.
And the result of the loss of our original political idiom has been, as I say, to invert the original presumptions. The average American, whether he has had high-school civics or a degree in political science, is apt to assume that the Constitution somehow empowers the government to do nearly anything, while implicitly limiting our rights by listing them. Not that anyone would say it this way. But it’s as if the Bill of Rights had said that the enumeration of the federal government’s powers in the Constitution is not meant to deny or disparage any other powers it may choose to claim, while the rights not given to the people in the Constitution are reserved to the federal government to give or withhold, and the states may be progressively stripped of their original powers.
What it comes to is that we don’t really have an operative Constitution anymore. The federal government defines its own powers day by day. It’s limited not by the list of its powers in the Constitution, but by whatever it can get away with politically. Just as the president can now send troops abroad to fight without a declaration of war, Congress can pass a national health care program without a constitutional delegation of power. The only restraint left is political opposition.
If you suspect I’m overstating the change from our original principles, I give you the late Justice Hugo Black. In a 1965 case called Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law forbidding the sale of contraceptives on grounds that it violated a right of “privacy.” (This supposed right, of course, became the basis for the Court’s even more radical 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, but that’s another story.) Justice Black dissented in the Griswold case on the following ground: “I like my privacy as well as the next [man],” he wrote, “but I am nevertheless compelled to admit that government has a right to invade it unless prohibited by some specific constitutional provision.” What a hopelessly muddled — and really sinister — misconception of the relation between the individual and the state: government has a right to invade our privacy, unless prohibited by the Constitution. You don’t have to share the Court’s twisted view of the right of privacy in order to be shocked that one of its members takes this view of the “right” of government to invade privacy.
It gets crazier. In 1993 the Court handed down one of the most bizarre decisions of all time. For two decades, enemies of legal abortion had been supporting Republican candidates in the hope of filling the Court with appointees who would review Roe v. Wade. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court finally did so. But even with eight Republican appointees on the Court, the result was not what the conservatives had hoped for. The Court reaffirmed Roe.
Its reasoning was amazing. A plurality opinion — a majority of the five-justice majority in the case — admitted that the Court’s previous ruling in Roe might be logically and historically vulnerable. But it held that the paramount consideration was that the Court be consistent, and not appear to be yielding to public pressure, lest it lose the respect of the public. Therefore the Court allowed Roe to stand.
Among many things that might be said about this ruling, the most basic is this: The Court in effect declared itself a third party to the controversy, and then, setting aside the merits of the two principals’ claims, ruled in its own interest! It was as if the referee in a prizefight had declared himself the winner. Cynics had always suspected that the Court did not forget its self-interest in its decisions, but they never expected to hear it say so.
The three justices who signed that opinion evidently didn’t realize what they were saying. A distinguished veteran Court-watcher (who approved of Roe, by the way) told me he had never seen anything like it. The Court was actually telling us that it put its own welfare ahead of the merits of the arguments before it. In its confusion, it was blurting out the truth.
But by then very few Americans could even remember the original constitutional plan. The original plan was as Madison and Tocqueville described it: State government was to be the rule, federal government the exception. The states’ powers were to be “numerous and indefinite,” federal powers “few and defined.” This is a matter not only of history, but of iron logic: the Constitution doesn’t make sense when read any other way. As Madison asked, why bother listing particular federal powers unless unlisted powers are withheld?
The unchecked federal government has not only overflowed its banks; it has even created its own economy. Thanks to its exercise of myriad unwarranted powers, it can claim tens of millions of dependents, at least part of whose income is due to the abuse of the taxing and spending powers for their benefit: government employees, retirees, farmers, contractors, teachers, artists, even soldiers. Large numbers of these people are paid much more than their market value because the taxpayer is forced to subsidize them. By the same token, most taxpayers would instantly be better off if the federal government simply ceased to exist — or if it suddenly returned to its constitutional functions.
Can we restore the Constitution and recover our freedom? I have no doubt that we can. Like all great reforms, it will take an intelligent, determined effort by many people. I don’t want to sow false optimism.
But the time is ripe for a constitutional counterrevolution. Discontent with the ruling system, as the 1992 Perot vote showed, is deep and widespread among several classes of people: Christians, conservatives, gun owners, taxpayers, and simple believers in honest government all have their reasons. The rulers lack legitimacy and don’t believe in their own power strongly enough to defend it.
The beauty of it is that the people don’t have to invent a new system of government in order to get rid of this one. They only have to restore the one described in the Constitution — the system our government already professes to be upholding. Taken seriously, the Constitution would pose a serious threat to our form of government.
And for just that reason, the ruling parties will be finished as soon as the American people rediscover and awaken their dormant Constitution.