Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I have been wondering where the federal government’s power ends. If the government can force us to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, couldn’t they put a penalty on virtually any other behavior to mold the way we live? At what point does that become tyranny? Or is it already? Since its creation, the United States has been a beacon of freedom, inspiring other nations to aspire for greater things. It’s tragic to see how much we’ve fallen in the past century.
How can we know when the U.S. government has crossed the line on its constitutional authority and entered into the realm of despotism? What should we do if/when that’s the case? Can the system be reformed and federalism restored in order to prevent complete tyranny? Let’s talk about these.
Lessons from the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson gives many helpful insights into what to do about this dangerous situation in the Declaration of Independence. A portion of it reads:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
One of the most important things I notice in the Declaration of Independence is that it relies heavily on a higher power for its legitimacy. Our inalienable rights are given to us not by governments, nor by nature, but by God. And yet it’s become less acceptable to say such a thing in recent years for fear of offending some people. But that is the crux of the original argument in favor of the United States of America. We have certain God-given rights that are inviolable by governments or other people, and if they are threatened then we have the right and the duty to defend them. If we are no longer able to give a legitimate reason for defending our rights because mentioning God isn’t allowed, then suddenly our foundation collapses.
For the past 100 years or so, Americans have allowed the federal government to grow and to control more parts of their lives. As long as it’s still possible to keep leading fairly productive lives, we’re content to live under the system that we’ve inherited, even if it does continue to move toward tyranny. But when is enough enough? When do we realize that a pattern of abuses and usurpations, as Jefferson said, are leading to our eventual destruction as a free people? And what do we do about it?
A Long Train of Abuses
After his opening arguments in favor of independence, Jefferson then proceeds to list more than two dozen examples of King George III’s violations of the American Colonists’ rights as British citizens. While I do not necessarily think that the violations of the federal government against its citizens are as severe as King George’s, they are subtly leading us away from a republican form of government and closer to a soft tyranny. Here are a few examples to consider:
- The devaluation of the U.S. dollar since 1913
- The creation of a progressive income tax to redistribute wealth, also in 1913
- The confiscation of citizens’ privately held gold in 1933
- The interning of Japanese Americans during World War II in 1942
- The confiscation of New Orleans citizens’ firearms after Hurricane Katrina
- The creation of new government agencies and laws to regulate many aspects of Americans’ lives
- The requirement of U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance
There are certainly many other examples, but these all represent important violations of the Founding Fathers’ original intent for the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Bill of Rights. Taking private property, not providing equal treatment under the law, and forcing people to abide by unjust laws are all steps in the wrong direction.
As I mentioned at the start, the latest example of the U.S. government’s overreaching power is their ability to attach a penalty to virtually any behavior and simply call it a tax if it is brought before the Supreme Court. We’ve ceded the right to control our health care to the government. What is next? Could they mandate the foods we buy, the amount of time or money we spend on exercise, the waistlines we must maintain, etc.? And why not? If public health is no longer an individual’s choice but a social responsibility, everyone has just as much interest in how their neighbors are taking care of themselves as they do about themselves. This setup is rife with possibilities for abuse and government intrusion into personal affairs.
We, the People
The trouble is that the reason we got to this point in the first place is because many Americans have become complacent about their freedom. We hear about injustice, terrorism, etc., and we assume that the only answer is to give away some of our rights to our private property and liberty. Unfortunately, there is always going to be injustice and there will likely be terrorists for the foreseeable future, so we should instead focus on personal responsibility to combat these and other societal problems. Individuals can give money to the poor rather than having the government take money from them and redistribute it in an inefficient manner. Individuals can report suspicious behavior and fight back when necessary rather than waiting at ever-longer lines at the airport. There are countless examples of how individuals, rather than a centralized authority, are more effective at getting jobs done and solving problems.
Many people actively fight against personal responsibility and liberty. They actually believe in entitlements. I have spoken with some people who say that they believe in equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity. This means that a rich person doesn’t necessarily have a right to his property if a poor person really needs it because the rich person has an overabundance and it’s not fair that he should have so much while others have so little. But taking property from one person and giving it to another, even if it is in the name of “fairness,” is called stealing. And yet that simple fact has been forgotten by so many. We’ve come to expect the government to take from the rich and give to the poor, as though it was a civic duty to loot. There is nothing just or merciful about theft because the person who receives the stolen goods is taught that their needs dictate their rewards. Plus, they are beholden to the ones who gave them what they have, and they understand that those things could be taken away as easily as they were given. In other words, they are taught to live in servitude. That is why we see so many people voting to preserve entitlement programs that are unjust and actually siphoning their wealth away.
If the government did become truly tyrannical, would Americans have the inner strength to know that what is happening is wrong and that they have the God-given right to fight for their liberty? At this point, I don’t know.
There’s still hope to heal the nation in its current form. Revolutions are rarely the answer. Every revolution not based on Godly principles has produced another tyrant, not rule of law. I sincerely hope it will never come to that. Our forefathers fought the Revolutionary War to create the first free society of our age, and their descendants fought the Civil War to preserve that society and free everyone in it. Now it is our turn to use the tools they gave us to preserve the United States once again. We can vote for people who will uphold the Constitution in word and deed. We can hold politicians accountable for their actions. We can let our voices be heard in favor of liberty over dependency. I’ll give an example of these things: A few months ago, a local woman was running for my State House of Representatives, and she called me up and asked me what I would like her to do if elected. I said, “Don’t promise me any financial rewards or that you’ll get any government subsidies or projects in our district. Just promise me you’ll fight for my freedom and do as little damage as possible, and then do it.” She was in complete agreement, and she actually came to meet me in person to talk some more. I plan on holding her accountable now that she has been elected to the office she was seeking. All of us can do that with our elected officials. They are serving us; not the other way around.
I hope it is not too late for us. It’s possible to turn things around and get the country back to its foundation of liberty, but I know it will be difficult. We face a Supreme Court that condones unconstitutional activities, a Congress that hasn’t passed a balanced budget in more than a decade, and a president who continues to make it harder for businesses and people to be free to produce and act as they think best.
I wish I could wake people up to what is really going on and help them see what they are losing as they clamor for more fairness and more government intervention. I’m sure some people will be offended by my words, but I hope they will at least help all of us to think about where we’re heading and what life will be like when we get there. If we reach a point where the government has the power to force us to do many things we find unconscionable, and it refuses to change its ways, I think we’ll be right on the cusp of either completely losing our freedom or regaining it by opening our eyes.
I’ll return to my usual forte of movie reviews next week. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this food for thought.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
Thanks Rob! Another great and insightful addition. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such an appropriate manner – no slander, no demeaning words, no attempt to create uproar – just logical, supportable, and direct evidences presented in an undeniable display of reason.
Hey Rob, another great article.
I couldn’t help but think of Hugh Nibley’s “The Naked Communist” where he talked about how the Government can only exercise powers that The People delegate to them. For example, you and I don’t want to have to spend all of our time defending our property and possessions, so we delegate that to the Police and Military.
But when the Government “spreads the wealth around” through progressive tax codes, they are doing things which the people could not possibly have delegated to them. If we attempted to do that it would be called theft and we would go to jail, yet somehow we allow the Government to do exactly that.
Also, I had forgotten about the confiscation of guns in the Katrina aftermath. That’s unbelievable, yet so very believable . . .
Hey- great article. Not sure that I necisarily agree with everything you are saying but definately made me think. And I would just like to agree with what Dan Olmstead said.
Thank you very much for commenting. I’m glad I could get you thinking, even if my ideas are a little out there. I agree with Dan, too. 🙂