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But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism ...
-- Thomas Jefferson, "Declaration of Independence"
It's very important to understand three things when discussing the political philosophy that's supposed to govern the United States of America. These are things that, for some reason, never seem to get mentioned in public schools or ever appear in politically correct textbooks.
First, the Bill of Rights is not a list of the things that you're allowed to do, but of things the government is strictly forbidden to do. I strongly urge you to read it for yourself, if you don't believe me.
Second, the Bill of Rights doesn't create rights, itself, it only recognizes certain of them and promises to guarantee and protect them. The Founders were believers in natural rights, which they said were G-d given, and which others see as inherent in our existence as human beings.
Third, the provisions of the Bill of Rights -- the heart and soul of American political philosophy and the key to our survival as a civilization -- are not negotiable, they are absolute. Nor are they properly subject to any limitation or regulation by the government they were intended to protect us from. If they were, then the Founding Fathers would never have bothered writing them down in the first place.
Let me say that again, rephrasing it slightly, to make sure that everybody understands what may be the most important political concept I'll be discussing here. Rights enumerated in the first ten amendments to the Constitution are not properly subject to any form of limitation or regulation by the very government they were intended to protect us from.
Take, for example, the First Amendment. No country with something like it in its Constitution has a place for a "Federal Communications Commission" to limit or regulate free speech, simply because it is broadcast, rather than shouted across a public square or printed in a newspaper. The FCC is a creature of early 20th century Progressivism, using the First World War as an excuse to make sure nobody questioned authority.
Similarly, the Second Amendment acknowledges a pre-existing individual right to own and carry weapons. The Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Monroe, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams believed (and wrote in various letters to one another and to others) that the fullest exercise of this right is essential to the continued existence of the free society that they had created.
They also believed that government is the natural enemy of such a free society. They wanted the individual to be just as well armed as the authorities. (For that reason, they would never have countenanced the 1934 ban on fully automatic weapons.) For them to have written the Second Amendment simply to protect some "right" of the government to own weapons would have been an exercise in surrealism vastly more bizarre and contradictory than anything Picasso or Dali ever thought of.
Of course that never stopped a politician in pursuit of money or power.
Somebody once observed that when a mugger accosts a politician, the politician will not only give the mugger his money, but he'll take off his pants and hand them over, too, because it never occurs to him that some thieves recognize limits of decency that he, himself, does not.
Today's politicians seem to think that the Founders were just as cynical and dishonest as they themselves are. The idea that Federalist James Madison might have written the Bill of Rights in an honest, good faith attempt to win the Anti-Federalists' trust must seem like bad science fiction to them. Projecting their own moral shortcomings onto their betters, they'd much rather believe that as soon as they got their Constitution and its strong central government approved by the voters, the deal was over with, and the Bill of Rights became a dead letter.
That's the way they'd do it, themselves.
I began this exercise by asking what's it gonna take to get folks interested in solving America's problems. Along the way, I protested that they're not asleep, as some advocates claim they are, just busy keeping the wheels of civilization turning by concentrating on their jobs, and trying to make a better life for themselves and for their families.
And that's where we find the vital clue. The mess that America presently finds itself in -- two undeclared foreign wars, an oncoming financial crisis of enormous magnitude, and a Bill of Rights that's been used rudely, wadded up, and thrown in the garbage can -- severely threatens everybody's prospects for a better life.
We must concentrate on communicating that threat above all to our fellow Americans, without employing hysterical scare tactics (which will only make them stop listening) and always offering hope. If they feel that their jobs, their homes, and their families are in danger, we won't have to urge them to act, we'll have trouble holding them back.
True, there are people out there who simply don't want to know what's going on around them. Others won't listen for reasons of what they imagine are patriotism. But I suspect that a substantial number of Americans actually know the score and aren't doing anything because they don't have any idea of what to do. And, of course, their long, sad experience is that, at least politically, there's never any good news.
The fact that one remote, tiny spark of hope on the horizon (a spark I can't discuss further here, for reasons I explain below) seems to be attracting their attention -- along with their campaign dollars in record amounts -- is an indication that some Americans have already stood up for individual liberty and a truly free country, ready to be counted.
The important thing is to keep that spark glowing no matter what happens in the short run politically. I could suggest a couple of experiments. Nothing grandiose to begin with, just simple little exercises.
In my writings elsewhere, I have demonstrated that the current outrageous price of gasoline has absolutely nothing to do with the free market system, and that -- for various, mostly scientific reasons, such as its abiotic origins deep in the Earth's crust, and our ability to manufacture it cheaply out of garbage we're otherwise having a tough time figuring out what to do with -- there is no justification whatever for the stuff costing more than a dollar a gallon.
I have suggested (and even designed) a bumper sticker that simply says, "ONE DOLLAR GAS" and provides the name of a place people might go to learn more and make their opinions heard. Once again, I can't mention that place specifically. However if stickers like that started showing up all over the place, politicians and the stuffed suits who run fuel corporations might get an inkling that their game is almost up.
Another idea: I have long believed that, once we've finally gotten through this nightmarish mess we currently find ourselves in, there will need to be criminal trials -- after the model of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals following World War II -- for the politicians and bureaucrats who created it, partly to make sure that it never happens again.
In fact, the mere prospect of such trials -- this time they will be for crimes against the Constitution -- might even help get us through the mess. I've also pointed out that there's a sleepy hamlet in east central Pennsylvania called Nuremberg, a fitting place to hold these Constitutional tribunals, which we could refer to as "Nuremberg II". Imagine thousands of bumperstickers out on the road that simply say "Nuremberg II" and offer a web address that explains what that means.
"Nuremberg II" and "One Dollar Gas", both short, pithy, and to the point, as is "$20 AK-47s" or "$50 M-16s" (reflecting the likely price of these commodities in a truly free market). All of these slogans are carefully calculated to rattle the establishment and promote genuine, positive change. Add another -- "Celebrate Bill of Rights Day" -- and place them in classifieds ads, tack them to the bulletin boards at the grocery. Post them where folks have no choice but to sit and read them.
Check back here frequently http://jpfo.org for new ideas as they occur to us, or just think up your own. You can also contact us at 1 (800) 869-1884 or write to P.O. Box 270143, Hartford, Wisconsin 53027.
Beyond that, because of idiotic -- and probably unconstitutional -- laws governing tax-exempt organizations, we can't suggest that you vote for this candidate or that candidate. But, as Nero Wolfe advised Archie Goodwin, you can always use your intelligence, guided by your experience.
I recently saw some early, very hard-hitting anti-war campaign spots for a Congressional candidate in my state (let's call him "Joe Blow"), and wondered where the guy stands on other issues. As has become my habit, I checked him out on Wikipedia.com and learned that he's a millionaire ten times over and has some intriguing business interests.
Clicking on over to his official website, most of what the guy wants to talk about there is the war -- I agree with him about that -- and the environment. He's a greenie -- no particular surprise there -- with serious delusions of Global Warming. Although he's a successful businessman, he demonstrates shockingly little understanding of economics.
On Google, I typed in "joe blow"+"gun control" to discover that he's just another creepy leftist born with too much money, a guy who's never had to live in the real world, and, most likely for reasons of unexamined ideology -- would far rather see a woman raped in an alley and strangled with her own pantyhose than see her with a gun in her hand.
Joe Blow is not in my district, so I couldn't vote for him next November even if I were inclined to, but I know plenty of the people he wants to represent, and I'll be giving them a heads-up all about him.
Intelligence guided by experience.
With a little help from the Internet.
A fifty-year veteran of the libertarian movement, L. Neil Smith is the Author of 33 books including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, And Down With Power: libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis. He is also the Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, now in its 17th year online.
Visit the Neil Smith archive on JPFO.
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