By now we have all heard something about the 2007 decision of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) to sign an executive order mandating the Gardasil vaccine for all girls entering the sixth grade in Texas schools receiving money from the State of Texas. One of the most fair and comprehensive articles on the web about this incident has been written by Ben Howe (@Ben_Howe) at RedState.com (@RedState), Vetting Rick Perry (http://www.redstate.com/aglanon/2011/08/17/vetting-rick-perry/).
I’m not going to rehash everything in Mr. Howe’s article. What would be the point? Read it. It’s very good. Instead, I’m going to use Mr. Howe’s article as a jumping off point.
The trouble with almost all the reporting and opinion writing I’ve seen on the incident is that they all seem to miss the point of why this is important, if not necessarily fatal, when looking at the presidential candidacy of Gov. Perry. How did I get it and few others seem to? I don’t know. Maybe because I have no personal ax to grind. No, I’ll admit it, I am not the biggest fan of Gov. Perry; however, I did vote for him in every general election in which he ran. So, I can’t exactly be seen as his biggest detractor, either. So, let’s get to it.
The important thing about this incident is not the vaccine itself. Though I understand the problems many people have with vaccines, I am an advocate of necessary vaccines.
The important thing about this incident is not the mandate. Though I understand the concerns of libertarians and parents’-rights activists, many other vaccines are required to enter Texas’ state-funded schools. (However, I must say that mandated vaccinations for venereal diseases does push the envelope a bit much, and I would be opposed to it.)
The important thing about this incident is not allegations of influence peddling. Though I share the concerns of many regarding this candidate’s history of bending to corporate interests, there has been no evidence given of anything more than garden variety campaign donations and corporate lobbying involving Merck. (I don’t like the way it smells, but it’s perfectly legal.)
No, the most important thing about this incident is executive overreach by Gov. Perry.
The executive and the legislative branches have completely different duties and authorities. Governor Perry by-passed the Texas State legislature when he signed that executive order. Instead of having someone sponsor the desired legislation and letting it go through the appropriate process, he basically amended State Law by his own, independent action.
Did Gov. Perry have any right under the Texas constitution for such an act? Did Gov. Perry have any administrative authority under state law for such an act? No to both. As a matter of fact, his order was widely understood to be both constitutionally and legally dubious. Amongst the public furor arising from the order’s announcement, both houses of the state legislature passed measures denouncing Perry’s order, and not just for the publicly controversial parts. The legislature knew their authority had been commandeered by the Governor.
Now, Gov. Perry did rescind the order, after the public uproar. He did apologize for the nature of the order, the particulars concerning the vaccine and the mandate. However, he never apologized for assuming the authority to make the order in the first place. He never tried to explain why he had assumed such authority, except to say “I hate cancer”. (Well, don’t we all?)
So, why do I consider this the most egregious part of the entire affair? Circumspection.
When picking a candidate for President, we have to consider their experience. In this incident, Gov. Perry has shown a disregard for the constitutionally defined duties of his office. We are all too aware of our current President’s disregard for limits to his power, with his signing of executive orders and his appointment of “Czars”. How can we criticize President Obama’s actions, but accept out of hand similar actions done by our own candidate? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical of us?
Remember when you were a kid, and you were busted for doing something you weren’t supposed to? What was the first thing you would say? It was probably “I’m sorry!” If you had a smart-alec like my Father, you would have been asked “Sorry for what you did, or sorry for getting caught?” With my Dad, you had better know the difference.
Well, guess what? I want to know why Perry apologized for his actions. Was he “sorry” because people didn’t like the policy, or was he “sorry” because he over-stepped his constitutional authority as governor? There is sure as heck a difference between the two.
In 2007, Governor Perry’s (R-TX) issued an executive order mandating every girl going into sixth grade in a Texas public school to receive the Gardasil vaccine. He then quickly rescinded his order, when public opposition grew too great. Every explanation I’ve read was merely an attempt to justify his actions. “He was sorry for upsetting parents, but his motives were pure.” Well, I have another of my father’s favorite sayings: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
So, one more time for those riding the short bus, what is his explanation for subverting the constitution of the State of Texas? Why did he think he could pass law without the state legislature? Why couldn’t he have had a bill sponsored in the legislature? What does this tell us about his attitudes concerning executive power, before he possibly ascends to the highest office in the land?
Is he sorry because he did it, or because he got caught?
If we truly believe in the “rule of law”, are these questions really inconsequential?
Ayn Rand had it right in Atlas Shrugged. Without the willing consent of the hosts, the parasites cannot continue to survive.
In light of the recent election, I’m waiting to see if the GOP will change direction. If they cannot do this in a serous way, then this election is only another speed-bump on Hayek’s “road to serfdom”.
I don’t only mean the GOP changing the country’s direction. No, I mean a change in the GOP’s own direction. Will it actually become the party of the “country class”, or will it continue to remain simply another party of the “ruling class”?
The GOP has been mouthing “country class” values for decades, but has (for the most part) not put these words into action. Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and both Bushes, they all believed in big government. It’s not simply that they believed the existing government was too big for them to meaningfully change. No, they bought into the necessity and usefulness of big government. They may have wanted to marginally change its direction and how it operated. They may have wanted to make it less wasteful, more effective, and less costly. However, the premise underlying big government was never really questioned.
Since WWII, only two Republican presidential candidates, Goldwater and Reagan, have been true Conservatives. Can we really call the GOP the “conservative” party when only two of its last ten presidential candidates have been conservative? We can work to elect as many conservative Senators and Congressmen as possible. However, how can we expect them to behave conservatively when most GOP standard bearers are “squishy” moderates?
Many of us have worked hard for decades to elect conservative politicians to help retain those of our freedoms which remain, and to regain those freedoms which we have lost. Our only real hope is for those of us in the “country class” to once and for all take control of the Republican Party from the Establishment. Once we’ve wrested control from them, their only chance for survival within the party is to go along for ride.
Won’t we lose some of the Establishment to the Democrats? Think about it. If that’s the case, then chances are they are already voting with them a lot of the time. In many important ways they’re already gone. If they don’t agree with us most of the time, and find us to be the bigger threat, then let them be on their way. In the larger scheme of things it won’t make much of a difference. The Establishment as an actual percentage of voters is not enough to make the difference in general elections, as long as we bring in the disaffected Independents.
Are these the same Independents the MSM talks about incessantly every election cycle? No, I’m not talking about the pseudo-moderates, who are, for the most part, the least informed among us. How has it become a virtue to have no educated opinion about the elected leadership of your country? No, I would do best to not speak of these pitiful, ignorant sheep watching Oprah and The View. Instead, I’m talking about disaffected, right-of-center citizens, who feel the Republican Party haven’t spoken to or for them, or, worse, believe their votes have been taken for granted in the past.
I’ve recently been reading articles about the successive groups of new voters having come to the GOP beginning in the early 1970’s. According to the pundits, the first was Nixon’s “silent majority”. Next to appear were the “Reagan Democrats”. Then on their heels came the “Christian Right”. Each of these new groups ushered, in turn, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, the Freshman Class of ‘95, and then Bush II. The newest of these groups of voters is supposed to be the “Tea Parties”, which helped the GOP take over the House of Representatives, and most of the States’ legislatures.
The “new voter groups” theory sounds great. However, if you take more than a cursory look at it, you’ll find it to be total nonsense.
Since the death of FDR, Democrats have won seven presidential elections. Of those seven elections, only three times were they won with a majority of the popular vote. Two of these Presidents were Johnson and Carter, both of whom were unable to win re-election. The third President is the current officeholder, Barack Obama. People seem to forget that Clinton won both of his elections with only a plurality of the popular vote totals. Arguably, without Perot’s third-party candidacy, Clinton would not have even been elected the first time.
During this same period, there have been nine Republican presidential victories. Of these nine elections, only two were won with less than a majority of the popular vote. In both of these cases, the Presidents won re-election with an outright majority. These two Presidents were Nixon and G.W. Bush.
So, let us look again at this “new groups” theory. According to this theory, Republicans, who’ve had presidential election majorities most of the time, keep adding to this majority with new groups coming into the fold. I don’t know about you, but the math doesn’t add up for me.
Nixon won re-election in 1972 with 60.7% of the popular vote. That vote would have included his “silent majority”. Where were those voters in 1976 when Ford garnered only 48% of the vote? It wasn’t like Nixon was running again. Ford was untouched by the “Watergate” scandal. If a “new group” had joined the GOP, what happened to them? While the total popular vote did increase by almost 4 million, Ford received approximately 8 million fewer votes than did Nixon four years earlier.
Reagan won election with 50.8% in 1980, and then won re-election with 58.8% of the popular vote in 1984. Not only was Reagan’s ’80 vote a smaller percentage than was Nixon ’72 vote, it was also about 4 million fewer votes. So, we started with Nixon’s 60% including his “silent majority”, and then we supposedly added “Reagan Democrats” and the “Christian Right”. How do we end up back at 58%? Yes, in ’84 Reagan did receive over 7 million more votes than Nixon’s high water mark, but the popular vote had increased by almost 14 million. I thought these were “new groups”. How does this theory explain Bush only getting 53% of the vote in 1988, and his then getting 37% in 1992? Bush’s ‘88 vote was just 1.7 million more than Nixon’s ’72 vote, and his ’92 vote was even lower than Ford’s vote in ‘76, while the total popular vote had increased by almost 22 million.
Another problem with this theory is the Clinton years. Two years after Clinton’s election, the GOP took control of both Houses of Congress. Yet two years later, Clinton was able to win re-election, albeit with less than a majority of the vote. However, the GOP maintained control of Congress until after G.W. Bush’s second mid-term elections, with the exception of the Senate during the first two years of his first term (thank you, Jim Jeffords).
Now, just two years after President Obama won the presidency with 53% of the popular vote, the Republicans have again taken control of the House of Representatives with a historically large majority. Why have the American people changed their minds so dramatically in just two short years? Have the GOP, indeed, brought over a new voting block, the “Tea Parties”, consisting of voters dissatisfied with the President? I don’t think so.
Unfortunately for the pundits, the “new groups” theory rest on three assumptions. First, one has to believe that all citizens of voting age already vote. Next, one must believe all of these voters are well-informed of and have a good understanding of the American political system and political philosophy. Finally, one has to believe the default position for most voters is Democrat. However, we all know three of these things are patently not true.
We know all citizens of voting age are not registered to vote. We know less than 70% of those who are registered voted in the most recent presidential election. Anyone who has been to an American public high school knows how little is actually taught about our systems of elections, Constitutional processes, political philosophies or the histories of our political parties. We also know that both major parties have about 30% of registered voters each. So, why is the question always framed in a way that seems to assume the Democrats are the majority party? “Where are these Republican voters coming from?” Indeed?
Let us look back over the last eight congressional election cycles. During this sixteen year period, both parties have had the presidency for eight of the years. In the Senate, Democrats had control for six years, while Republicans had majorities for ten years. In the House, Democrats have had control for only four years, while the Republicans have had control for twelve of the years. The next two years will see a change to only equal years of control in the Senate. So, if we call the House, as did the Framers, that chamber of the legislative branch closest to the people, then it could be considered the tie breaker. The country is marginally more Republican than Democrat.
Let’s look at this question another way. Consistently for about twenty years, people have identified themselves in opinion polls as conservative, moderate, or liberal, by 40%, 40% and 20%, respectively. Now, the Republican Party has sold itself to be the “conservative” party, while selling the Democrats as the “liberal” party. Not that the Democrats identify themselves that way. Most Democrat politicians run away from that characterization, choosing instead to be called “progressives”, “moderates”, or by some other undefined term.
The dirty little secret is… neither of them is coming clean with the people. In reality, the Republican Party is the moderate-right party, while the Democrats are the liberal party. It’s not a matter of how they market themselves, but of who actually runs the parties and the legislation they promote. Do we judge somebody by their actions or their intent? It has to be by their actions, because there is no way to know what’s in a man’s soul.
If the GOP were actually the conservative party, then the national party leadership would be conservative, as would be its legislation agenda. They would be conservative enough to hold on to the 40% of the population who call themselves conservative, while reaching out to those moderates who are right-leaning, just enough to get slightly over one-quarter of them. Instead, it has a party leadership which promotes legislation to the moderate 40%, and then reaches out to the conservative 40% just enough to win elections. Its outreach to conservatives is done in two different but complimentary ways: promising to be more conservative, and (if that doesn’t work) fear-mongering about the Left. A truly conservative party would never do things like introduce new or expand existing government programs, offer amnesty to illegal aliens, or allow itself to become the tax collector for the welfare state.
The Democrats are different, but use similar tactics. They claim to be the party of the center, while being run by the Hard Left. They constantly market themselves to the “mushy” middle. They use ill-defined terms like “fairness” and “equality”. They are always talking about giving a “helping hand” to those “less fortunate” than ourselves. They use all the feel-good language of the day. However, they never talk about the costs, in Property and in Liberty, of all this “generosity”. The majority of their leadership comes from super-safe, ultra-liberal enclaves, which all but guarantees their re-election to office in perpetuity. They constantly push and prod the political system to advance their statist agenda, all the while talking of “moderation”, “compromise” and “bi-partisanship”. Would a truly moderate party seek to gather all power and resources into a centralized state?
So, taking a critical eye to the proposed “new groups” theory regarding Republican Party expansion over the past few decades one would have to declare it “hooey”. It begs many more questions than it offers solutions. Why the sudden surge, then quick recession, in the wake of Nixon? Why was Reagan/Bush able to have three terms, but never come close to a majority in the House? How was Clinton able to gain re-election, even after the “Gingrich Revolution”? How were Republicans able to gain and keep Congress through Clinton, then to lose it outright during Bush’s second term? How was the GOP able to regain the House, come close in the Senate, and devastate the Democrats at the state-level just two years after having “it” handed to them by Obama, Pelosi and Reid?
The “new groups” theory fails because it is based on the idea that the Republican Party itself had any involvement in its own good fortunes. It’s a great idea to sell, if you’re in the politics business. “I, too, can get you voters. Here’s the magic formula.” If that were the case, then the GOP would have gotten 60+% of the vote even after Nixon. The only control the GOP seems to have over its fate is in making the wrong decisions, often at the most inopportune moments. You see, the Republicans, through their own hubris, lose almost as many voters as they gain, over any given period of time.
The GOP gains voters at times of perceived “crisis” to these peoples’ way of life. However, the GOP can’t keep large numbers of these new voters for the long-term because they continually disappoint the new arrivals. Inevitably, a new crisis occurs and the cavalry (or its successors), composed of the productive, middle-classes, ride out to the rescue. They don’t come in rescue of the GOP, but to rescue the nation. The GOP’s short-term success is just a by-product of these good citizens’ desire to defend their families and selves from an overreaching state.
These different groups of voters coming to the GOP are not permanent additions, like water pumped into a holding-tank. These voters are more like waves crashing on a beach. It’s repeating cycles of the same water, over and over. It washes up and then pulls away, driven by the political tides and winds. They become energized, act, and then becoming dispirited and disillusioned, finally pull away. Then a new crisis occurs beginning the cycle anew. The waves don’t accumulate, though larger ones have been known to wash over the dunes and collect in pools behind them.
The “Tea Party” movement is just the most recent of these citizen waves. It is potentially the strongest of these waves in several generations. It must wash over the political leadership in Washington and undermine the dunes of centralized authority. It must not simply slip back into the sea, its energy wasted on the beach. They cannot, as in the past, just elect new people and then go back to their lives, hoping these guys will do as promised. We’ve seen what’s happened too often.
The power of Washington is intoxicating liquor, which once imbibed proves too difficult for many to resist. We need to be the ones to call their tab and send them home if they get too drunk on it. No one is more dangerous than a politician behind the wheel of government, drunk on their own power. None is safe in his path.
In addition to my “crisis wave” theory to explain sudden volte-faces in the political fortunes of Washington, I have a “general theory” of American popular politics. It’s is, “In the aggregate, most people in most states will elect the more ‘convincingly conservative’ candidate (and/or party, in the case of a nationalized legislative election), unless they have good reason to distrust their authenticity. In the absence of a perceived degree of difference, the voters will default to a contest of personalities. For the purposes of this theory ‘conservative’ is defined as a generalized belief in traditionalism, national defense and free-enterprise, not the more specific ‘Movement Conservatism’.” If you apply this theory, not as a Monday morning quarterback, using the information the average voter would have had at the time of the election, you can see why some elections went the way they did.
In ’48, Dewey was a liberal “me-too” Republican with no point of difference. In ’52 and ’56, Stevenson was a “pointy-headed intellectual” and Ike was a successful, military leader. In ’60, the platforms were nearly indistinguishable, and so it was Dick or Jack by likability. ’64, here we have an outlier because the self-styled conservative lost, but other issues at play, like assassination (exceptions prove the rule, right?). In ’68, Nixon seen as conservative to Humphrey (plus Chicago Convention didn’t help matters). In ’72, Nixon was seen as way more conservative than McGovern. In ’76, the Rockefeller Republican Ford versus professed born-again Christian, Southern Democrat Governor (in the wake of Watergate, to boot) was a no-contest. ’80, Reagan beats Carter. ’84, Reagan really beats Mondale. ’88, Reagan’s successor beats Massachusetts Governor. ’92, incumbent no longer seen as conservative loses to moderate Southern Democrat Governor (trust issues and degree of difference). In ’96, Clinton had been pulled to the right while Dole ran as a moderate (no degree of difference, default to personalities). In ’00, “soft” conservative, Southern Governor defeats moderate Southern, Senator/Vice-President (most people in most states, electoral college). In ’04, sitting war-time President beats Northeast, Democrat Senator. In ’08, moderate-sounding, well-spoken, young Senator defeats historically moderate-sounding, grouchy, old Senator (remember that MSM didn’t report any appreciably negative stories, his politics were not well examined, while McCain ran to the left giving people nothing to go on but personalities).
My theory explains sixteen of the seventeen most recent elections. Take of it what you will. It does a lot better job of analyzing these past elections than any other on I’ve heard. In examining any problem, I tend to use Occam’s razor. It just seems to cut through all the unnecessarily complicated ideas. Think about it. Look at the ’00 race objectively, most people thought of Gore as the “New Democrat” Vice-President of a popular sitting President. He spoke better. He had answers to every question. He was involved in “reinventing’ government. He was all in to the internet and the environment, when people still believed that global-warming jazz. Everything being even, he should have won that race. I think Bush actually made the race closer by his use of that “compassionate” conservative rhetoric. It lessened the degree of difference between Gore and himself. Stark contrasts show better.
In discussing these ideas with others, I keep being told that the demographic trends of the country are against us. Don’t listen to the ‘demographic’ argument. Politics is not biological. Keep this in mind. Before Buckley revitalized the Conservative movement, most of the population had been reared under Hoover, FDR and Ike with their unwavering belief in big government intervention. WFB had not yet been born the last time a conservative, Coolidge, was in the White House. Even so, the movement came back. What it took to start was one twenty-three year old man writing about his experiences at Yale.
The long-term problem has been that each wave thought they could simply elect someone and then disengage and go back to their life. This is the ‘long war’ and it must be treated as such. Every day, every election, both primary and general, must be used to reinforce our insistence that government exists for our purposes, not the other way around. Politicians must learn to do as we say or they will find themselves unemployed. If necessary, we must create wave after wave of politicians, elected and then defeated, until we finally get to those who actually follow the Constitution.
The market is a great indicator of what people want. Just as we cannot fault a manufacturer for producing a frivolous product which people want, we cannot fault the politician who does whatever it takes to get re-elected. What we can do is change the market indicators. Manufacturers make new products or change existing ones to meet consumer demands, or risk losing business to competitors. Politicians must be made to understand that the only way for them to get re-elected is to change their product, or risk another politician getting our vote.
In this case the desired product is Constitutional government. Will we ever get what we want?
The purpose of any government is to get things done. Its existence may not be considered legitimate. The person(s) in power may not be you. The methods used may be to your detriment. The things done may not be to your liking. Regardless, it is there to get something done. Who, what, why and how? These are answered by the type of government you live under.
The purpose of government in an authoritarian society (monarchy or oligarchy) is to do things to the “people” (subjects) at the behest of and to the benefit of the ruler(s). There are innumerable examples of such governments throughout history. The prevailing characteristic is: Either you’re “in” or you’re “out”. These tend to be very static societies, with change only coming violently from either outside by invasion or inside by revolution. Any loss of control by those in power can lead, domino-like, to the complete collapse of civil authority.
The purpose of government in a “democratic” society is to perform “collective action” with the consent of the majority. However, just because decisions are made “democratically” doesn’t necessarily make the individual any freer. If you are in the minority, you have no say in what these actions may be or in how they are achieved. In a “pure democracy” you have no rights other than those agreed to, at any given moment, by those with the most votes. History shows these societies to be short-lived due to roiling factionalism, which leaves them vulnerable to invasion due to weakness or to takeover by authoritarians offering stability.
Luckily, the Framers of our current government were students of history. They understood that the only way to be truly free was for government to protect an individual’s Life, Liberty and Property, not just from others but also from the government itself. They knew there could be too much democracy. They also knew there should not be a permanent ruling-class. The only solution was to marry those who govern to those governed, within a framework which limited the intrusive power of government. The Men who created our government had deep wells of personal experience and historical perspective from which to draw, but first they had to contend with their contemporary situation.
A little history…
The Founders may have given us a country, a Constitutional, Federal Republic, but it had a weak and ineffective government under The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Founders cannot be blamed in any way for this compact. The Articles of Confederation was a necessarily hurried creation in a time of rebellion against their colonial Master. The authors didn’t see themselves as creators of a “nation”, but as writers of a treaty, an 18th century American “NATO”. Their States were their countries, and to these States they gave their allegiance. The Articles were drafted to protect them from their mutual enemy… and, to a certain extent, to protect them from one another.
After the conclusion of hostilities with Britain, many found the Articles to be insufficient to the task of properly governing such a large nation at the federal level. Some called for amending the Articles to expand and enhance its meager powers. A convention was called and delegates were sent to Philadelphia to propose modifications to the Articles. Within short order, the delegates came to the agreement that the Articles should be set aside, and a new document created. This action being outside their assignment, the delegates agreed to continue in secret until they could present a completed document to the Congress and the States. To this end, they wrote a new contract between the States, replacing the existing federal government with an entity answerable to not only the States, which will have created it, but also to the People, from whom they believed all legitimate political authority is derived.
The new contract, our current Constitution, gave representation, in many and varied ways, to both the States and the People. Direct accountability to the People was the element absent from the Articles of Confederation. The Framers were able to justify the broadening and strengthening of federal government authority beyond those under the Articles based, in part, on direct accountability to the People. However, our Constitutional, Federal, Democratic Republic limits those areas of action within the purview of the Federal Government. All other areas are reserved to the States and to the People. To emphasize this last point the very first Congress passed an amendment, the Tenth Amendment, to the new constitution saying exactly that.
So, “collective action” is performed, as in a democracy, but this action is constrained and compartmentalized. Unlike a “pure” democracy, the political rights of the current minority are protected on par with the majority. Like an authoritarian government, a select few make law and administer the state; however, power is not absolute and position is legitimized by citizens. An individual or faction may not get always their way, but none shall be “punished” for being on the out of the current majority. Unlike in a national government such as Britain’s, our sovereignty is maintained by the People and exercised concurrently by multiple levels of government, each assigned its unique areas of responsibilities.
In the appropriate areas and at the proper levels, our governments perform those collective actions we want performed. The federal government was given great power, but its actions were to be limited in scope to primarily national defense, and commerce, both interstate and international. Within these areas it was given a wide field, but it was not to venture beyond its estate without trespassing upon the properties of another, the States. As well, the States’ governments have greater or lesser power, depending upon their own constitutions and the wishes of their Peoples, but have responsibilities separate and unique to them from the federal level of government.
[Oddly enough, it’s never commented upon that the federal Constitution establishes no qualifications as to the type of government required at the State level. Under the Constitution, no State is required to be a Constitutional, Democratic Republic. Theoretically, a State could possibly have been a Constitutional Monarchy, as long as they convened a legislative body, and sent representatives to Congress. According to the Constitution, the States set the rules by which representation is elected. So, theoretically any qualifications could have been created.]
Now, the very nature of what constitutes a legitimate government action is often debated. However, by its very definition a legitimate government action must take place, if at all, at the correct governmental level according to the divisions of powers. As well, the perceived need for an action, even in the case of an “emergency”, does not automatically legitimize it. Many argue that the proper level of government is that which is able to muster the resources needed to perform the desired action. They don’t know their history.
At this juncture, it must be pointed out that a proper and lawful action by an American government is not that difficult to discern, if one can read the English language. The Constitution of the United States of America is written in plain language, as are each of its amendments. The delegates to the convention were learned men, but few had a formal education. So, it is not necessary to have a law degree, any post-secondary education, or a Ouija board to comprehend the meaning of the document. At most, the notes from the debates, kept by James Madison, are all one may need, though a copy of the Federalist Papers would be illuminating. Also, all State constitutions are written in English. So, I foresee no problems on that account.
If one bothered to read the writings of those involved in constructing the Constitution, one would find their plans for the federal government somewhat grander than that which preceded it. However, it was never meant to be an all-encompassing entity involved in the daily lives of its citizens. Unless one lived in the vicinity of the Capitol or a military installation, the US Postal Service (a constitutionally mandated institution) would be one’s only possible daily interaction with the federal government.
There was never to be a behemoth in DC being THE government. It was only to be a government. Your only directly elected federal official was to be your Representative. Senators were to be selected by States’ legislatures. You were not to be overly concerned with who was the President, as he was primarily the administrator of laws passed in Congress. Very few “life or death” decisions were to be made in Washington. Without direct taxation, only those involved in commerce beyond State borders were directly affected by the federal government. That is how it was supposed to be.
Your most important political interactions were to be with State officials living in your community and whose Capitol is closer to home. You would truly know those with the most direct impact on your life. They would not be some distant person seen only in TV ads or read about in the newspaper. If things functioned as constructed, one would not feel compelled to give to federal candidates or become fervently involved in federal elections. Time and energy would be spent on local and state candidates. State and local officials would be true governors and not primarily mere administrators of federal mandates and “largesse”.
There exists a fairly simple a process to determine whether a need is a legitimate government action. Answer these questions (in the exact order given): Can the “necessary” action be taken by the individual? Can the action be taken by the family? Can the action be taken by private associations (churches, public service organizations, businesses, etc.)? Can the action be taken by municipal or local governments? Can the action be taken by State government, within the constraints of its constitution? Finally, must the action be taken by the Federal government, within the constraints of its Constitution? At any point you are able to say “yes”, stop. That is the correct place for action to occur.
Some may say that is a harsh and restrictive test. They would be right. In a society where citizens are truly free, collective action must be taken only when absolutely necessary, and then only at the level closest to the individual. There are many arguable reasons for this, but the overriding rationale is Liberty. No person should make demands on another for what he is able to do for himself. Similarly, no family, locality, or State should demand of another anything it is able to provide for itself.
Once the appropriate level of government decides a lawful action requires being done, it must then determine how it will be taken and how it will be financed. All actions taken at any level of government come at a cost, and these costs are borne exclusively by the citizens. Whether taxed directly or not, no one is immune to the costs of government. Every dollar spent by a government is a dollar taken out of the private economy, whether it be borrowed or taxed. So, these actions must be performed as efficiently and economically as possible.
Practical suggestions for necessary government…
To minimize government overhead and long-term recurring costs, few government buildings and installations should be held permanently;
As government exists to perform tasks and not to provide jobs, permanent employment with its attached costs of non-salary benefits and retirement should be limited to only essential personnel;
For taxpayers to benefit from competition in costs and services, all non-essential functions should be outsourced to third-party contractors which must bid at regular intervals;
All government programs should include “sunset” provisions, which would require new, separate enabling legislation and a vote by politicians to remain in effect;
As all federal and state governments have Civil Service laws protecting employment, labor unions and collective bargaining should end for all government employees;
All federal and state lands which are not permanent parts of the parks services should be put up for sale to private entities, thereby paying down the debt, eliminating operating costs and generating tax revenues for States and localities;
To return intended powers to the States’ governments and to end the wasteful and coercive effects of the separation of tax revenue generation from government spending, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed;
To end the socially divisive and economically distorting effects of the generation of tax revenues based on the income of individuals, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed;
As federal taxes are meant to generate revenue for necessary spending and not to control behavior, it should be raised as efficiently and unobtrusively as possible which should be exclusively by a consumption tax by way of a Constitutional Amendment;
To prevent the constant growth of federal government, a Constitutional Amendment should be passed limiting spending to a fixed percent of Gross Domestic Product;
To recreate the citizen legislators envisioned by the Framers, and to end the near permanent ruling class with its focus on seniority, a Constitutional Amendment to limit the terms of Congressmen should be passed; and
To end the exchanging of blame for wasteful spending between the Executive and Legislative branches of federal government, a Constitutional Amendment giving the President a line-item veto should be passed.
The purpose of government to a free people is to secure our God-given rights to Life, Liberty and Property. Proper government does not encourage citizens to see one another as either host or parasite, as a means to further its own power. Men are only truly free when they live without fear of their government or their fellow citizens. The only way we, the American People, can regain the Liberties established, enjoyed, and fought and died for by the Founders and Framers of this nation, is to return to the original ideals they so heroically espoused. To do that we must look back to their original intent by wiping away the over two centuries of accumulated detritus that politicians and jurists have used to obscure that most beautiful document which begins “We the People of the United States of America…”
I was up at my regular time the other morning reading my news and blog sites, and doing a bit of tweeting. A tweet by Jonathan Hoenig (@JonathanHoenig) directed me to his then latest post, When in Doubt about a Stock, Stay Out (http://bit.ly/bYw1uN). He gives good, common sense advice on investing in the market. Thing is, it got me thinking, which is never good…
Was there ever a time when people dealt with the foreseeable negative results of their own actions, or inactions? It sure as Hell doesn’t seem to be the way of the world, anymore. People no longer seem willing to be at fault for anything they do or for the decisions they make. As a case in point, let’s look at the financial markets…
Over the last couple of decades, greater numbers of people have entered the markets. Now, this is of great benefit to us all. We need the middles classes to be an investor class. The markets are helped by an increase in capital available to corporations allowing them to more cheaply tap needed resources. Additionally, this lessens the burden to employers and to government, which have historically been on the hook for providing retirement income to seniors.
Unfortunately, two things have happened to negate the benefits of this expansion of the investor class. The first is the way business and investment news is reported. The second is increased government involvement in the markets. Both have had their own deleterious effects on the markets and on “investors”.
In the old days of the thirty-minute network news program, most people received their financial information in a fifteen second blurb reporting on the ups or downs of the NYSE or on the movement of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. For more in-depth information, the average person would go to their local paper for a closing snapshot of the markets movement from the preceding day. If there was an unusually interesting day in the markets, there would be a few articles in the Business Section. The hard-core investor and the financial types could always go to the news stand for the Wall Street Journal or the Investors Business Daily, but these were specialty publications as far as most people were concerned.
This hands-off, multi-layered approach to financial reporting all ended in the late 1980’s. Introduced not only were the 24-hour cable news networks, but close on their heels came their siblings, the Business and Finance channels. With the advent of these networks, came the increased presence of financial reporters, personalities, and gurus. Financial reporting became more and more about chasing the new “hot” stock pick or about setting the new record high.
“Live from the floor” footage of the NYSE, the NASDAQ or the CBE told the riveting tales of the daily ups and downs of the markets. Personalities were trotted out to pinpoint the under-valuation or the unexpected movements of a particular company’s stock. IPO’s and LBO’s were the order of the day. The markets were going gangbusters. Everything was going up and up… until it all went south.
No one saw it coming. Except they did. They just didn’t talk much about it. It didn’t fit the narrative they were telling or the product they were selling. “Irrational exuberance” was the order of the day. All of the danger signs were there, but few wanted to see them or at least admit it if they did.
I’m not just Monday (or more appropriately, Friday) morning quarterbacking this one. I cashed out of the market a year in advance of the crash. When I passed this advice on to others, I was called crazy. “You wouldn’t believe how much I made last month.” These were the same people who asked me why I didn’t warn them, after their stock holdings lost over half of its value.
In the wake of the busting of the “Tech Bubble”, yet more “reforms” were made to the U.S. financial system, as if that was what was needed. God forbid any one look at the decisions “investors” made during the “boom.” Weren’t there already regulations requiring disclosures to the SEC? Wasn’t insider trading already illegal? Didn’t each company have to prepare a carefully created prospectus for potential investors? No, there must be some grand conspiracy to defraud people of their hard-earned money. Really? Across the entire stock market?
How could that be? Wasn’t there already a virtual “alphabet soup” of financial regulators? Yeah, there was. Our financial markets have been heavily regulated since the Great Depression. There were no inherent problems or major gaps in regulation in the financial markets. In very few cases were there any findings of malfeasance or fraud on the part of corporate leaders. Yes, many people lost a lot of money, but, for the most part, only due to their own greed. That’s right, I said it.
“How dare you?” Yeah, I can hear it from here. I dare say it because it’s true. Greed IS NOT profiting from hard work or careful investing. Greed IS trying to get something for nothing. Those who chase financial market “bubbles” are not investors. They are gamblers. You want to bet your retirement or your kid’s college fund on a roll of the dice? Take it to the Indian Reservation. Stay out of the market.
“What about those poor Enron employees who lost everything?” Too bad. The first rule of investing is “diversify risk”. Risk diversification means NOT putting all of your eggs in one basket, which is exactly what they did. If you work for a company, that’s one big egg. If your company has a retirement plan, either defined benefit or defined contribution, that’s another big egg. Do you have: an Employee Stock Option Plan, a 401K, an IRA, other personal investments? Egg, egg, egg, egg. If you put all that money (and risk) in one place, guess what happens when there is a downturn? Exactly…
Instead of placing the blame for bad “investment” decisions squarely where it rests, which is on those responsible for their own portfolios, what do politicians do? Pander. Time after time, we have to hear the moaning on Capitol Hill about the “poor little guy” who was “snookered” out of his life’s savings. Who made him put all of his money in one “investment”? What’s next? Are we going down to the riverboats to feel pity for those who put all that they have on “Black”, “Red”, or “00”? Are we going to offer them a bailout or sue the casino? I call “Bullshit!”
I’m not just saying this about individuals. As far as I’m concerned this goes for companies, unions, governments… whatever. If you’re a corporate “leader” who signs an unrealistic labor contract, then you, your employees and your investors must deal with the consequences. If you’re a union “leader” who thinks he can bleed a business or industry dry, then don’t be surprised when it dies of anemia. If you’re a government “leader” who “kowtows” to public employees in hope of securing re-election, then you must make the hard decisions when economic difficulties arise and you have budgetary shortfalls.
For too long people have been trying to take the easy way to “success”, however they may define it. They have loaded up on risk in any number of ways. When the ax finally falls, as it most assuredly will, they go running for help. To whom do they run? Us, as always. They come running with their hands out asking to be made whole for the losses they have incurred. Why wouldn’t they? They have learned we’ll open up our wallets and paychecks for every sob story told.
Most of us were taught as children that we could only succeed if we made the right choices in life. We were taught to work hard, study, save, and spend wisely. Others have been taught to do the opposite, if not directly, then by example. Too many people (and they include businessmen & politicians, manager & workers, taxpayers & tax spenders) have learned that they can behave however they want regardless of risk, and the cost will be borne by everyone BUT themselves. They have learned that they can democratize risk, and we have allowed it.
The end result of decades of bad decision-making being paid for by innocent third parties is ever more bad decisions and ever more payouts. Where are we today? Public and private debt is at all-time record highs. The value of our total national government obligations is close to 90% of our GDP, our national income. We have hit a wall. It’s time for people to learn that if they fail because of bad choices, we won’t be there to catch them anymore. We just cannot afford it.
Why is it that the same people who are supposed to be the smartest people in any given room (if you don’t believe me just ask them) are the most inept when it comes to human behavior? Yeah I know, they went to Harvard, Yale, MIT or Wharton, but does that necessarily confer genius status on them? Come to think of it, few, if any, of the actual geniuses I know can tie their own shoelaces properly. Maybe that explains all of the Birkenstocks, loafers, and (Lord help us) Velcro-enclosed sneakers amongst the self-proclaimed “best and brightest”.
These people have been extensively (and expensively) educated in the Law, Medicine, the Sciences, Public Policy, Education, Business, etc. They have had access to the most celebrated professors in their respective fields of study. They have interned with Supreme Court Justices, Senators and Captains of Industry. They have been Fulbright and Rhodes scholars. They want us to believe all their “fancy book learnin’” has given them a greater understanding of our needs and of how to best fulfill them.
Yes, they have been taught how to operate a system. When one gets down to the basics of any education, it’s about operating systems. The practice of Medicine is about operating within the system of the human body. The practice of the Law is about operating within our system of jurisprudence. Within those systems they have learned to produce predictable results using techniques which have been achieved through much trial and error.
They have learned to take for granted the predictability of results from a proposed change in some variable with which they have decided to tinker. This attitude is completely understandable when dealing with an individual patient, client, subject, student, etc. The problems arise when they try to extrapolate their specific understanding upon the greater world outside of their area of study. In this case they have leaned the exact wrong lessons from their studies and experiences.
However, these “learned ones” have not benefited from a true “liberal arts” education. The purpose of the “liberal arts” was to free one’s mind. Instead they have been taught to specify. The classics of “liberal” thought of have been replaced with “statist” gender and minority studies. This emphasis on specificity has failed to teach them a vital lesson when dealing with fellow human beings: The one can not be treated as many, just as the many cannot be treated as one.
This failure of understanding has resulted in two contradictory but dangerous phenomena: policy by anecdote and one-size-fits-all policy.
When these “brainiacs” decide it’s time to correct some perceived “wrong” they immediately begin a predetermined multi-step process, one which they have been using for quite some years now. They begin by presenting statistics indicating how a “sizable” (if questionable number) minority of the population is being slighted by government inaction (most often) or action (much less so). They begin lining up individuals within this subgroup who are “victims” of the “problem”. The sob stories begin. These tales of woe are repeated endlessly and magnified to the point where it is forgotten that these are anecdotes. Those opposed to the proposed “correction” are then asked to justify not helping this person (don’t forget “you cruel, heartless SOB’s”). So, public policy is altered not to aid the vast majority of the people (i.e. as in “the general welfare”), but instead to aid specific individuals at the expense of the majority.
Inevitably, the tears dry, the dust settles and the new policy prescriptions are passed (few wanting to seem like a heartless SOB). Only then does someone actually read the new regulations (or laws). Lo and Behold! Not only are some of those “victims” no better off, some actually fare worse. In the process, many (if not most) who had no desire to be included have been ensnared within the new policy. The new policy being “fair”, little quarter is given for individuals’ situations. All must be treated equally, and as most often with government “equally” doesn’t mean “well”. How do you enjoy being treated “equally” by the IRS, DMV or the Post Office? Good times… good times…
Whether it’s “entitlement” reform, “health-care” reform, “immigration” reform, “environmental” regulation, the pattern is the same. Public policy sold through anecdotes. Heck, they even pulled the same trick while passing “finance” reform, except they made everyone think marble bathrooms and trips to Las Vegas were the order of the day for most financial institutions (those greedy SOB’s). Actual, useful statistics need not be presented when a “victim” (or “villain”) is readily available. Why let pesky facts get in the way?
As expected (by the SOB’s), every government program sold as helping the “down-trodden” has cost multiples of the original estimates, failed to properly address the real issues, or most likely both. Want examples? That’s easy. The ’86 Immigration Reform Law (yes, signed by Reagan) was never fully implemented, except for the amnesty part. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security have taken over the government like a cancer. The recently passed “health-care” reform law has already doubled in cost, even before actual implementation. CAFÉ standards cause more US deaths each year than the entire Vietnam War.
Maybe the “experts” need to be sent back to their original areas of pursuit. Most are probably good practitioners in their original careers. The only downside I see? Some may end up as professors at their alma maters. Can’t see how that would be helpful. I guess it’s a risk we may have to take…
Today is the ninety-seventh anniversary of the passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. Originally, Senators were chosen by their States’ legislatures, though some States delegated their election to the people. The 17th Amendment changed the Constitution to require the direct election by the people of the members to the U.S. Senate. It is three relatively short paragraphs which have drastically changed the country negatively. The effects of its passing are still being felt in many ways.
The direct election of Senators upset the most important Constitutional balance created by the Framers. When people think of the Constitutional Balance of Power, they automatically assume it to be between the branches of the federal government: executive, legislative and judicial. However, more important to the Framers was the balance between the Federal government and the many States’ governments. The States were the original governing entities, they preceded the Constitution, and by ratifying the Constitution they created the federal government.
According to the Framers, the Senate’s purpose in the legislative branch was to be the States’ House, a counter to the People’s House. The passage of the 17th Amendment changed the “States’ House” into the “People from the States’ House.” There is more than a rhetorical difference inherent in these designations. The Framers’ intentions included preserving the authority of the States’ governments. The Senate was created as the means to protect those States’ interests. Instead the Senate has become merely another legislative body representative of the people.
If the States were meant to become simply administrative agencies of the federal government, the Framers would have created a unicameral legislature. Why design two bodies directly accountable to the people, when one will do? The Framers were not believers in the excesses of democracy. The Senate was meant as a check on the mob, and a protector of the States and those liberties inherent in the States’ governments. However, the Senate, as originally intended, has ceased to exist and is superfluous to the current function of government. The post-17th Amendment Senate is comparable your second kidney: it’s nice to have and it’s functional, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Does anyone believe the Senate, as originally constituted, would have allowed the massive transfer of political power from the States’ governments to the Federal government that we have seen in the last century? The States’ legislatures would have never elected Senators whose own interests were aligned more with the federal government’s than with theirs, nor would they have re-elected Senators who so willingly gave away State authority. That’s not to say pork-barrel politics wouldn’t exist, but unfunded mandates on the States, like those in Obama-Care, would have been politically unthinkable.
The folly of the 17th Amendment was easily foreseeable. The States’ governments should have known better than to ever allow this amendment’s passage. Once again, foolish politicians thought themselves smarter than the Framers and tinkered with the most beautiful political document in Man’s existence, without giving proper consideration to the consequences. We have been left to deal with the resulting Constitutional imbalances and losses of liberties ever since.
This day, April 8, the anniversary of the 17th Amendment, is yet another sad date in our history.
It is widely purported, by those on the Left and fellow-travelers in the major media, that when the “free market” and “capitalism” are defended, “big business” is actually being discussed. This is not necessarily the case. Most would expect me to say emphatically that it is not the case, but I believe in telling the truth. Like other words and phrases, the “free market”, “capitalism” and “big business” have had their meaning distorted. There are those more interested in furthering their own aims than they are the truth. In this case, these deceivers fall into two groups: those opposed to free markets, and those opposed to capitalism.
Many on the Right tend use “free markets” and “capitalism” interchangeably because one is thought to be essential for the other. They are wrong to do so. Capitalism is a system that primarily uses the “profit motive” to distribute goods and services throughout an economy. The idea of the “free market” is the belief that an individual has the right to conduct trade with any other individual without government interference. Now there are other economic systems which allow profits, but only capitalism can truly be married to “free markets.” However, capitalism can exist without “free markets.”
All economic systems produce goods and services. People must be fed, sheltered and clothed. These can be done either by individuals or by collective enterprises. The bigger the economy and the more complex the products produced, the larger these enterprises must become. Economies of scale and concentration of expertise are required for large-scale enterprises to supply those things necessary for a growing, progressing human population, regardless of system. In most economic systems these enterprises are called “big businesses“.
Now, who are those opposed to free markets? You may be surprised to find some of the biggest opponents are businesses. Seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? How can any business be against an open market? Well, the purpose of any business is to maximize shareholder value. If a business can do this by restricting competition, then that is what it will do, if possible. The managers of a business are not ideological, their priority is profit maximization. People in business believe in the profit motive; therefore, capitalism; just not necessarily the free market.
Another group opposed to free markets is politicians. Politicians in all parties seek ways to get, hold and expand their power. One method for this is to restrict markets. These restrictions are alterable in any number of ways and their expansion or adjustments are opportunities for influence peddling to interested persons. All those affected by the restrictions, positively or negatively, have a reason to seek the favor of politicians. These politicians can get campaign donations, under-the-table deals, promises of future jobs, etc. and most important to them, their ass kissed.
Politicians live to have people need them so that they can exert power over them. “Big Business” is the perfect foil for the politician. These businesses can be extorted for favors while simultaneously used as scapegoats for all that is wrong with the economy (national or local), with employment, with financial markets, with health care, with transportation, with energy policy, with the environment, etc. This behavior leads to further attempts by these businesses to influence the politician, sometimes preemptively, against stop targeting them.
Microsoft is the perfect example of this phenomenon. In 1990s, Microsoft had the vast majority of the PC operating system software market, but had almost no presence in Washington, DC. However, its competitors began spending money on lobbying efforts in DC in an attempt to get the government to turn its attention to this financial giant. As a result, Microsoft was targeted by the US government for anti-trust violations. In addition to having their product market restricted, Microsoft began spending vast sums on lobbyist and now has a large, permanent presence in DC to prevent future attacks on its business. The only winners were the politicians and their campaign contributors.
Another example is Altria (formerly Phillip Morris Companies Inc), the owner of the tobacco company Phillip Morris USA (PM), which manufactures the Marlboro brand of cigarettes. Marlboro is the largest selling brand of cigarettes in the US, resulting in PM being the biggest tobacco company. In the ‘90s PM began lobbying the US government for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to take control of the regulation of the tobacco industry. Tobacco and alcohol manufacturers were purposely excluded from the Pure Food and Drug Act (1908) which established the FDA. PM wanted the FDA to regulate tobacco, because it knew the resulting limitations on product marketing would help prevent competitors from eating into their market share and boost their profits. PM spent $101 million on lobbying from 1998 to 2004. President Obama signed the law changing regulatory authority in 2009. Once again, the winners were politicians and their contributors.
Those who believe in Free Market Capitalism have neither a love nor hate for “big business”. We have a love for freedom and for the consumer. Businesses exist to produce things consumers want at a profit. The consumers are protected by the competition of an open market, which prevents any one company from permanently monopolizing that market. Government should act as a disinterested third-party. It should police the market only for anti-competitive business practices resulting in actual damages to consumers. It should not prop up inferior competitors, or target companies whose only crime is being successful. Unnecessary government interference has a detrimental effect on the market and the consumers.
Finally, there are people on the Left who do not believe Capitalism is a “moral” economic system. They protest against the meetings of the World Trade Organization and G-10. They hope to turn public opinion against the system by “exposing” the worst abuses of “big business”. They have every right to do so, and, inadvertently, their exposes can actually strengthen the market. Most are too ignorant to realize free market capitalism is premised upon “perfect knowledge” and the more we learn of how some companies operate the better for the market. So, keep it up guys. Just tell the complete truth more often. OK?