Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Nation of Men

In thinking about the presidential race, there is a more important point to be made over and above criticism of the pathetic rogues gallery of contenders now before us and the excruciatingly vacuous "debates" that are supposed to set them apart from one another. The more frightening problem is that we are at a stage in the devolution of our nation's founding principles where we have to care about the outcome. The old saying that properly the US is a "nation of laws and not of men" is less true than ever.

A constitutionally limited government would have little effect on the day to day life of a nation. The main purpose of the chief executive would be as commander in chief of the armed forces and therefore as principal conductor of the nation's foreign policy. Of course, this would be a vital role and the president's philosophy would set the tenor for foreign relations and he would be the voice and symbol of the country internationally. The leadership of the armed services in times of war would obviously be critical but of course this is practically rare. Additionally, the founders left the declaration of war, the ratification of treaties, and the funding of the military to the Congress which of course is a massive check on the power of the chief executive.

Today, in opposition to our founding principles and the rational purpose of government, the federal government pervades every aspect of our lives. A full list would take a thousand pages but consider the fact that each person under threat of prison and fines, must detail virtually every financial transaction they make throughout the course of the year and pay a multitude of taxes representing a substantial and in some cases majority of one's annual income to Washington. Consider that these taxes are actually taken at source through payroll taxes and that the government forces an individual to "contribute" a substantial portion of their earnings to the social security system with no guarantee of repayment or of interest. Consider that a private bank known as the Federal Reserve bank was granted the power to print money and that Americans must use its notes which are backed by nothing but the Federal government's future taxing power. Consider that this bank can then buy government bonds which provides the government an unlimited ability to borrow and spend at the expense of anyone who owns the currency and that the president nominates the chairman of this bank for a term of 4 years. Consider that the president's cabinet contains secretaries of departments with regulatory power over every aspect of our lives from education to property, banking, medicine, and literally the "environment" in which we live. Each day, the government can make decisions regarding taxes and regulations that will affect and possibly destroy the lives of millions of people in countless different ways.

Unfortunately, this is why it matters who is president. We have become a nation of men and not of laws. The personality and philosophy of the president can have tremendous ramifications for everyone. Like a medieval kingdom the nation suffers more or less from term to term depending on whether our neighbors elect the next Ivan the Terrible or Hillary Clinton.

The solution is not to hope for a benevolent dictator but a return to a government limited in power so that less of our individual lives are spent worried about our next master. To discover the proper function of government and the nature and meaning of individual rights will require a philosophical revolution among the nations' intellectuals. Then and only then will we have another presidential election such as the election of 1800 when your choice would have been between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson not Huckabee and Obama. I just scared myself.

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