It is during this election cycle more so than at any time in my life time that the lines are being drawn between whether or not the United States of America remains to be a country founded on the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, or it transforms irrevocably into an elected dictatorship with power concentrated in the executive branch and more and more control being transferred from the Congress and the people to the president.
Why do I say this? What proof do I have to back this up? Let’s consider government spending as a percentage of GDP. According to this chart, government spending as a percentage of GDP was nearly 42% in fiscal year 2010. These are the highest levels of government spending since WWII. Moreover, since its most recent low of 20% in 1948, the rate of government growth as measured by this index has grown steadily to its current high. In other words, the rate of government growth has been slow and incremental. That is until Barack Obama assumed office in 2009. At that time, the rate of government growth jumped up dramatically from 37.39% to 42.11%; more than the entire rate of growth during the Bush years (which grew from 33.61% in 2001 to 37.39% in 2008, a 4% growth in government).
Anybody who has been watching the political scene during the last three years, knows it was Obama’s massive increase in the growth of government that prompted the Tea Party movement. 2010 saw a huge reaction against Obama’s Big Government programs and gave the House of Representatives back to the republican party. As a result, the growth of Leviathan has slowed, but we’re still on a path toward economic destruction unless drastic austerity measures are put in place. We cannot sustain an economy that has over 40% of its production coming from the public sector. Government cannot create wealth; it must first take wealth from the private sector in the form of confiscatory taxes in order to produce anything.
Now something that should be painfully obvious to everyone, if government grows, individual liberty shrinks — liberty and the state are antithetical to one another. Some may balk at that statement; in other words, liberty is compatible with the state. I don’t agree. Perfect liberty cannot exist with the state; for the state to exist, people must sacrifice some individual liberty. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing (a different topic for a different time), but just like the more light you have in a room, the less darkness there is, so too the more freedom the individual has, the less power the state possesses. I believe this is indisputable.
Our federal government (never mind our state governments) has grown steadily since 1948 (as referenced above). As the federal government has grown so too has its control over our lives in the form of regulation and taxation. There is word to describe this relationship between the government and the people — parasitic. The government must feed on the people in order to survive. This is no different than a parasite that feeds on its host in order to survive. This is a sustainable situation as long as the host remains healthy and the parasite doesn’t take more than the host needs to survive. However, if the parasite grows too big or the health of the host begins to wane, both will die. This, I believe, perfectly describes the cross roads we’re at here in America.
How did we get here? A detailed history is beyond the scope of this article, but we can hit the highlights. The United States of America was born when the original 13 colonies declared their independence from the British Empire on July 4, 1776. In that declaration of independence, the representatives of the 13 colonies wrote:
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.
The Declaration of Independence rooted itself on the concept of natural rights; that all people have equal status under God, and therefore, should have equal status under the law. These natural rights are “unalienable” in that they cannot be relinquished or violated; to do so would be morally wrong. Moreover, the state exists to protect these rights. Implied in this statement is the fact that our rights do not come from the state. When the state fails to protect our natural rights, then the people have the right — the duty — to abolish the state and begin anew.
As the Revolutionary War was underway, the Continental Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation, an agreement between the 13 colonies to form a loose confederation of sovereign states. The first state to ratify the Articles was Virginia in 1777 and the last state was Maryland in 1781. The Articles were in effect from 1777 until 1789, when the Articles were replaced by the Constitution. The whole purpose of the Articles was to ensure the sovereignty of the individual states. A cursory glance at the Articles indicate that it served it’s purpose very well. Among some of the articles were the following:
- Asserts the sovereignty of each states, except for the specific powers delegated to the confederation government, i.e. “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.”
- Does not call the United States of America a “nation” or “government,” but instead says, “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.”
- Allocates one vote in the Congress of the Confederation (the “United States in Congress Assembled”) to each state, which was entitled to a delegation of between two and seven members. Members of Congress were appointed by state legislatures. Also, individuals could not serve more than three out of any six years.
- Only the central government was allowed to conduct foreign relations and to declare war. No states could have navies or standing armies, or engage in war, without permission of Congress (although the existence of state militias is encouraged).
Many called the Articles of Confederation a “failure.” Perhaps it had its short comings, but the purpose of the Articles was to protect state sovereignty, not create a strong central government. A strong central government was what they rebelled against. Furthermore, a strong central government is anathema to individual liberty.
However, there were forces within the Continental Congress, spurred on by Alexander Hamilton, that wanted to replace the confederation with a more robust national government. The result was the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which eventually produced the Constitution of the United States of America. More than just an amendment of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution transformed the confederation of sovereign states into the federal government. As momentous and historic as this document is, it was the first step from a truly limited government into an expanding American empire.
To be sure, the Constitution set strict and severe limitations on the extent and exercise of federal power. In addition, it also gave the benefit of the doubt to state’s rights and individual liberty by saying any power or privilege not explicitly delineated in the Constitution is reserved to the people and the states. However, the door was opened for the growth of centralized government and its encroachment into our liberties.
This is precisely what has happened in the intervening 200+ years since the Constitution was ratified and became the law of the land. Those who felt that the Constitution was too strict have always tried to find creative ways to interpret the Constitution or find loopholes to circumvent its limitations. The first, and probably most egregious, violation of the limitations of the Constitution came during the Civil War (or “War of Northern Aggression” if you’re from the south). Despite what the ‘official’ history books say were the reasons for the Civil War, slavery was only a peripheral issue (not that slavery is a “peripheral” issue, but it wasn’t the main reason for the Civil War). The southern states wanted to secede from the union for reasons that had to do with tariff issues that benefited the northern states at the expense of the southern states.
For our purposes, the issue at hand is this: Do sovereign states have the right, under the Constitution, to secede from the union? Given the circumstances surrounding the birth of our nation, it would seem that the answer should be “yes.” Go back to the words of the Declaration of Independence, “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.” I’m not saying the south was right or wrong, but what I am saying is that if they felt that the federal government was violating their rights, they had every reason to sever their ties to the federal government and establish their own government. However, Lincoln and other union supporters couldn’t have half the country seceding from the union, and war eventually broke out — a war to force the southern states back under the yoke of the federal government. To date, the Civil War is the bloodiest war in our history.
The next big expansion of federal power occurred in the early decades of the 20th century. 1913 is a year that will go down in ‘infamy’ for three reasons:
- February 3 the 16th amendment of the Constitution was ratified implementing the income tax
- April 8 the 17th amendment of the Constitution was ratified allowing the direct election of senators to Congress
- December 23 the Federal Reserve Act is passed establishing the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank
Why are these things bad for liberty and great for the state? First, the 16th amendment allows the federal government to claim a portion of your income as their own — it’s a violation to the principle that you (the individual) have a right to your property. Second, the 17th amendment is bad because it removes the selection of senators from the state legislatures and bases their election on popular vote. The founders were especially wary of the idea of pure democracy since the minority would be subject to the majority. The 17th amendment was a step away from representative government and toward pure democracy. Finally, the Federal Reserve Act created the Federal Reserve System which controls our money supply. With the eventual severing of the dollar from the gold standard, the Federal Reserve essentially has become the means through which the federal government has been able to fund its massive expansion project. Ever wonder why your taxes haven’t gone up significantly with the expansion of government welfare and warfare programs? The Federal Reserve! You don’t need to raise taxes to fund the government when you can just print money. However, our fiat money system is essentially a hidden tax as the expansion of the money supply devalues the money we have in our pockets. I heard recently that the dollar has lost over 90% of its values since 1913.
I could go on to describe the New Deal, the Great Society and the perpetual warfare state, all of which have served to greatly increase the power and scope of the federal government at the expense of our individual liberties. I trust I’ve made my point: As the state grows, our freedoms and liberties evaporate! We no longer have a limited government, and we haven’t had one for nearly 100 years (if not longer). As the saying goes, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely!”
What has been even more disconcerting is the growth of the executive branch. As originally constituted in the Constitution, the president’s responsibilities are:
- To execute the laws that the Congress writes and passes
- To serves as commander in chief of the military
- With the advice and consent of the senate, to appoint judges, sign treaties, and appoint cabinet positions
That’s basically it. The power to write laws and declare war was vested in the Congress. However, both of those congressional powers have been transferred (illegally) to the executive branch. Consider the growth of the executive branch over the years. When George Washington was president, he had six members in his cabinet. Compare that to Barack Obama who has 15 members in his cabinet, plus six other cabinet level positions; not to mention the dozens of unconfirmed “czars” that have been appointed as executive advisers. With all of these executive departments filled with government bureaucrats, the ability for the president to write laws in the form of government regulations is enormous. In addition to this, we have the War Powers Act of 1941, which has greatly increased the president’s ability to wage war. Since WWII, the United States government has not engaged in an officially declared war. This is an usurpation of congressional powers of mammoth proportions!
All this to say that we are slowly, but surely, moving into an American empire as Congress, our elected representatives, continue to abrogate their duty to check and balance the president; relinquishing their Constitutionally enumerated powers to the president. In the meantime, the power of the president has grown ever since Woodrow Wilson took office and especially grew during Franklin Roosevelt’s reign. So much so that Congress enacted the 22nd amendment to limit the president to two terms. As this march toward empire continues, we the people are losing our freedoms each and every day. The state grows by placing more and more people in dependency to the state, thereby securing its control at home, while at the same time it seeks more wars to fight to grow its power and influence on the world stage.
There are only two ways to stop the American Republic from turning into the American Empire: 1) Elect a president (Ron Paul) and congressmen who understand the intent and design of the Constitution to stop the growth of Leviathan and return us to some semblance of limited government; or 2) We go the way of all empires by collapsing from within — the parasite starves to death because it has completely consumed the host.
The American people need to wake up and realize that if they value freedom — true freedom — they need to choose option #1 before option #2 becomes a reality.