Identifying Freedom’s Problems, Part 1

Posted: October 14th, 2010 by Militant Libertarian

by Attorney Timothy Baldwin, LDL

Those who would classify themselves as the enemies of tyranny and advocates of freedom have offered—and for quite some time—many reasons why the United States are in the condition they are in. These reasons need to be reduced to their principle and need to be studied in terms of both society and government phenomenon before real remedies can be applied to the problems caused by the reasons. The reasons can be summarized into three main statements. The problem with the United States:

(1) is not with the United States Constitution (“USC”) but with the people of America;
(2) is not with the USC but with government rulers; and
(3) is with the USC, regardless of the people or rulers.

It is admitted that the complexity of this subject cannot be fully dealt with in a short article as this, but perhaps the content herein will aspire more people to truly identify the real causes of our plight so that an enlightenment of the mind will produce freedom, happiness and peace in all of the societies in America. To that end, I will take the proposed reasons in order.

(1) The problem with the United States is not with the USC but with the people of America.

I find this position to be at best partially correct.

(a) Subjective Perspective of the ‘People’s Problem’

It is easily admitted and provable that a large number of Americans (increasingly) do not possess the characters and virtues required to self-government and limited government, from a subjective perspective. That is, individual Americans do not possess the required attributes of a responsible citizen towards fellow man and government, ranging from his lack of education,[1] his disingenuous attitude towards politics and his laziness to study and get involved in preserving freedom. However, laying the blame solely on the people is a serious mistake. While it is absolutely true that constitutions do not enforce themselves and thus “it must be the people’s fault,” it is equally true that for every cause there is an effect. Thus, where a constitution is created in such a way as to cause directly or indirectly certain effects, it is correct to place at least some blame on the cause, especially where the cause’s effects are foreseeable.

The USC has been in effect since 1787. Since then, thousands of federal politicians have been elected, federal court cases rendered and discussed and Congressional bills passed and executed throughout generations of American society. Since then, unrelenting constitutional debates have filled thousands of volumes and millions of pages to discuss the “true” extent of the federal government’s power by some of the most intelligent and studied men of history—including men who not only helped draft the USC but also contributed to declaring the colonies free and independent states in 1776. These political events have taken place in front of millions of virtuous, admirable and freedom-loving Americans of every generation. Still, the effect of the constitutional process blares before our eyes. Thus, it cannot be true that the problems in society and government are completely attributable to the people alone.

The result of this 200-plus year constitutional process has produced a federal government, operation, rule of law and system of what many are claiming suddenly to be anti-constitutional, as if the federal power and authority being asserted is somehow new in its origin and basis. Using the logic and ideology of founders like Alexander Hamilton, Charles Pinckney, Governor Morris and the like, the federal government is simply exercising its legitimate, supreme-law-of-the-land authority with plenary power to implement any and all laws it deems necessary and proper in pursuance of their powers to provide for the general welfare of the nation of one body-politic—the American people at large. It is this same logic that the U.S. Supreme Court has used since 1788 to confirm this same plenary power of the federal government to pass and execute laws, subject only to their review as the final arbiter and determiner of the USC.

This 200-plus year application of the USC has proven itself to be very detrimental to the rights, powers and sovereignty of the State bodies-politic, not the least offense of which was displayed from 1861-1865. But even before that time, all three branches of the federal government slowly but surely claimed powers in the authority of and in pursuance of the USC that were once held by the states, the U.S. Supreme Court justices upholding their laws time and time again. This is the nature of humans and government—especially big government:

“[W]e overlook the changes that insensibly happen by a long train of steps that are but slightly marked. It would be rendering nations an important service to show from history how many states have thus entirely changed their nature, and lost their original constitution.”[2]

If it took over 200 years to reach this point, how much longer would it take to restore freedom to its 1787 condition when nature works in favor of an expanding and encroaching government and not in favor of the rights of individuals and societies?—especially given the position that the problem with America is the people, not the USC. For as Thomas Jefferson observed, “[t]he natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”[3]

Even if the “original constitution” were proposed to preserve the sovereignty of the states, virtually any and all resistance displayed by state governments to protect their sovereignty has been struck down as being contrary to the national, one-American-body-politic principles of the USC by the federal government. In essence, state sovereignty is whatever the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed it to be. Unfortunately, the states have complied with and submitted to this constitutional interpretation and have largely done so (with few exceptions) throughout America’s history—and for the past century and more, mostly by accepting federal handouts each year. Their hands are extended, and while the money is put in one hand, the chains are shackled around the other.

For more than 100 years, the entire federal government, under both Republic and Democratic leadership, has declared to the American people and to the world that it has the power to regulate virtually any matter whatsoever through its tax and commerce power. During this time, America’s “greatest generation” (the World War II generation) existed and consented to such a constitutional proclamation, handing down to their posterity the consequences of such a constitutional application. It was this generation that consented to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” wherein the federal government’s role extended to regulate the smallest of private industry and consented to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions, such as Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), upholding Congress’ power to regulate what and how much crops a private farmer could grow for his personal use. Matters have only gotten exponentially worse since then, creating more resentment, frustration and anger in the hearts and minds of the people who long for freedom yet never find it in the system created by the USC, or at least the people who have controlled it.

And if the USC has been supposedly raped (as opposed to being pursued) for as long as it has and the cause of the same is the people of America, why has there not been an effort to separate from the societies causing the generation-after-generation demise? After all, if this is true, “show respect to liberty and your power will increase daily,”[4] then the power which has increased daily since 1787 proves that the people and rulers do not respect liberty but rather respect statism and big government. Still, this statism and big government has come by way of the USC in its organic form.

“The worst of all abuses is to pay an apparent obedience to the laws, only in order to actually break them with security. For in this case the best laws soon become the most pernicious; and it would be a hundred times better that they should not exist.”[5]

Problems being perceived as “new” today are actually manifestations of principles which have been analyzed, accepted and applied for over two hundred years through constitutional process. While some may argue that the laws being passed today do not reflect what the “founders intended,” they would be competing against a philosophy developed for many generations and have to unravel a ball of yarn that has been not only tied into knots but also glued into place. Trying to argue what the “founders intended” would prove most ineffectual—especially on a national scale—considering the differing and opposing views held by the founders and ratifying States, not to mention societies’ views of the founding generation today.

What is clear to many is that freedom will not be restored by trying to go backwards, but by moving forward on principles found in God’s natural and revealed laws. Is this not what the founding generation did? Were the founding fathers abandoning their forefathers when they seceded from the British Constitution or were they pursuing and perpetuating their honorable sacrifice? In 1776, the conditions were ripe for revolution. In 2010, those conditions are no less ripe:

“[L]iberty may begin as an internal power, an internal power to reflect upon the past (to see what might have been different in it) and upon the future (to see alternative courses of possible action). And liberty may also depend upon an internal power to choose (both to repent of some things in the past and to select and choose a new course in the future). But to flourish and break into blossom, liberty needs the sunny warmth of culture and ideas and the nourishing rain of favorable institutions of politics and economics. The inner power to act freely and the hunger to exercise liberty may be universal, but the cultural and institutional ecology of liberty may for millennia be unfavorable to its exercise. These interior powers may therefore slumber in the patience of evolution, until conditions are right. The blossoming of liberty has in fact required many centuries to unfold. Only two centuries ago, the Americans of 1776 and 1789 were poignantly aware of their own uneasy originality. They rejoiced at casting their very first votes as a free people.”[6]

Federal courts have in very large part not relied upon what some call the “original intent” but rather have relied upon the construction of the words of the USC; for as was observed by John Jacques Rousseau, “The power of the laws depends still more on their own wisdom than on the severity of their administrators.”[7] Consequently, the federal government’s power has been and would be today considered by many constitutional scholars as being sound and legitimate given those factors of constitutional interpretation and application.

Given the hundreds of millions of Americans who have overseen the constitutional process in America since 1787; the 200-plus year political process within the three branches of the federal government which have put flesh on and put into practice the “experiment” of the USC proposed in 1787; the intense debate and involvement which America’s “greatest generation[s]” and even founding generation existing after 1787 concerning the federal government’s constitutional powers; and the thousands of repeated confirmation of constitutional federal plenary power, there could hardly be a legitimate argument made that the political and governmental problems in America today lie solely with the people and do not lie at all with the USC.

Otherwise, what effect does a constitution really have when it can be completely destroyed by the simple fact that the people are not capable of governing themselves? If a constitution is wholly inadequate for an immoral and irreligious people, then what good is binding yourself to a society and union that creates the unenforceability of the constitution you claim must protect your freedom? One would think that a better way to secure freedom would be first to do what Alexander Hamilton suggested in times of tyranny:

“The people should resolve to RECALL ALL THE POWERS they have heretofore parted with out of their own hands, and to DIVIDE THEMSELVES INTO AS MANY STATES[8] AS THERE ARE COUNTIES, in order that they may be able to manage their own concerns in person.”[9]

Secondly, all citizens of the state must endeavor to possess the qualities of self-government, -responsibility and morality, not just write some words on a piece of paper, call it a constitution and hope that it will govern people who cannot govern themselves.

“There can be no patriotism without liberty, no liberty without virtue, no virtue without citizens; create citizens, and you have everything you need; without them, you will have nothing but debased slaves, from the rulers of the State downwards. To form citizens is not the work of a day; and in order to have men it is necessary to educate them when they are children.”[10]

A constitution will only follow the philosophy of the people and will never have the effect of limiting government where the people do not possess self-governing characteristics. From the looks of it, the condition prevalent is not changing anytime soon, which is largely thus:

“The unequal distribution of inhabitants over the territory, when men are crowded together in one place, while other places are depopulated; the encouragement of the arts that minister to luxury and of purely industrial arts at the expense of useful and laborious crafts; the sacrifice of agriculture to commerce; the necessitation of the tax-farmer by the mal-administration of the funds of the State; and in short, venality pushed to such an extreme that even public esteem is reckoned at a cash value, and virtue rated at a market price: these are the most obvious causes of opulence and of poverty, of public interest, of mutual hatred among citizens, of indifference to the common cause, of the corruption of the people, and of the weakening of all the springs of government. Such are the evils, which are with difficulty cured.”[11]

At least, the answer lies in a spiritual and mental enlightenment of individuals who compose the several societies in America. It was only for the reason that the American people were capable of self-government that the USC-ratifying generation believed the experiment of the USC could possibly be successful. The gamble of the experiment was made on that presumption. However, those presumptive facts no longer exist. It is for this same reason that for freedom to be restored in American societies, much more will be needed than “voting the bums out” in Washington D.C.—a futile, ineffectual and fruitless exercise. Instead, individuals composing the several societies in America must apply the formulas of freedom in their own society.

[1] Education is used in the political and philosophical sense and application.

[2] Emer De Vatel, The Law of Nations, Book 1, Sec. 30.

[3] Thomas Jefferson and John P. Foley, ed., The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, A Comprehensive Collection of the Views of Thomas Jefferson, (New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1900), 387.

[4] Jean Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on Political Economy, from Great Books of the Western World, Ed., Robert M. Hutchins, Trns. G.D. H. Cole, (Chicago, IL, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, originally published 1755), 375.

[5] Rousseau, A Discourse on Political Economy, 372.

[6] Michael Novak, The Universal Hunger For Liberty, Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable, (New York, NY, Basic Books, 2004), xv-xvi.

[7] Rousseau, A Discourse On Political Economy, 371.

[8] “State, in which all the individuals being well known to one another, neither the secret machinations of vice, nor the modesty of virtue should be able to escape the notice and judgment of the public; and in which the pleasant custom of seeing and knowing one another should make the love of country rather a love of the citizens than of its soil.” John Jacques Rousseau, A DISCOURSE ON A SUBJECT PROPOSED BY THE ACADEMY OF DIJON: WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF INEQUALITY AMONG MEN, AND IS IT AUTHORISED BY NATURAL LAW?, from Great Books of the Western World, Ed., Robert M. Hutchins, Trns. G.D. H. Cole, (Chicago, IL, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, originally published 1755), 323.

[9] Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper 26 (emphasis added).

[10] Rousseau, A Discourse on Political Economy, 375.

[11] Rousseau, A Discourse on Political Economy, 375.


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