Why Must we Surrender our Rights during times of Perceived Crises?

Once again, our nation surrendered its liberties – our natural rights endowed upon us by our Creator – because of fear and panic.  We did not sacrifice our rights to some “greater cause,” for there is no cause greater than the natural state of freedom that makes us all human.  Instead, we compliantly surrendered that which makes us human, that which makes us American, to scare-mongering “experts” who conned us into believing their priorities, preferences, and judgements were somehow superior to everyone else’s.  We willingly relinquished our own powers of critical thinking and allowed our emotions, particularly our fears, to limit our own judgements.  We allowed a small cabal of so-called experts and politicians to strip us of our right to free will and choice, in exchange for being serfs to their own choices.

The United States of America was founded upon the principle that all humans were granted natural rights by our Creator.  These rights are not abstractions that a benevolent or despotic government can freely grant or deny.  They are an extension of the free will provided to us by our Lord – a recognition that such free will, choice, and liberty is the natural state of every human.  Legitimate governments strive, at all times, to preserve and protect individual liberty.  Despotic governments seek to control humanity by infringing upon these natural rights.

Anatomy of Despotism

During the coronavirus pandemic, governmental officials, usually governors and members of the federal and state executive branches, abandoned any pretext of protecting individual rights and, instead, chose to rule by dictate and decree.  Most of the nation’s governors chose to put their own citizens under various forms of house arrest, through “stay at home” or “lockdown” orders.  They arbitrarily closed businesses they deemed “nonessential” with little thought given to the real impact this would have on the business owners, their employees, their suppliers, and the communities they serve.  When confronted with a perceived crisis, these supposed leaders reflexively resorted to the most intrusive and excessively coercive mechanisms of governmental power, rather than trusting their citizens to independently make the choices right for them.

This was partially caused by mass hysteria driven by the sensationalist and alarmist pronouncements of the media and by opportunistic “experts” seeking personal publicity or the raw exercise of power.  The so-called “experts” were granted levels of influence and power far beyond their areas of expertise, and the public eagerly and willingly acquiesced to even the most draconian recommendations of these individuals.  It is a sad reality of human nature that when given an opportunity to exercise power over others, most people will gladly wield that power to their own ends.  Far too often, the public meekly complies.

Whether you choose to call the technique “gaslighting”, or as Hitler termed it, “the Big Lie,” when something is repeated often enough and with enough conviction, the public will eventually believe, and then, embrace the lie.  The panic and raw emotional reactions to the perceived threat of COVID-19 was a classic example of this phenomenon.

The Path to Dictatorship

Initially, most Americans, including most politicians, believed COVID-19 would not cause much trouble, and even branded those who disagreed as racists against the Chinese.  It was not uncommon to see mayors and other political figures tour Chinatowns in their cities and encourage people to visit their restaurants and businesses.

That all changed in late February and early March of 2020.  The news media seized upon the worst aspects of the outbreak in Europe, particularly in Italy and quickly sensationalized their coverage in a desperate search for ratings and readers.  Then, on March 16, Imperial College in Britain published a model which predicted that half a million people in Britain would die from COVID-19, and two million from the United States.  Even though the authors of the Imperial College model quickly walked back their predictions, the press, and swiftly afterwards, the public and the politicians, seized upon these alarmist predictions and repeated them like a mantra.

Driven by public demand to “do something!,” California’s governor issued the first “stay at home” order on March 19, 2020.  All but seven states quickly followed.  These “stay at home” orders closed businesses deemed nonessential by the state governors, prohibited elective surgeries in hospitals, limited gatherings of more than a handful of people, and often closed public parks, beaches, and other outdoor recreation venues.  Some restrictions, such as those imposed by Michigan Governor Whitmer, were more arbitrary and draconian than others, including forbidding lawn service companies from cutting lawns, preventing residents from purchasing plants and seeds from shops already open, and banning motorboats on waterways, but permitting non-motorized watercraft.  Clearly, all these restrictions violated the rights to free exercise of religion, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, the right to not being denied liberty or property without due process of law, the right to not have excess fines imposed, and a host of other Constitutionally-enumerated rights.

Few governors gave thought to the health and economic consequences of their decisions, and often imposed restrictions in spite of the lack of empirical evidence supporting them.  The initial justification was that the restrictions were necessary to “flatten the curve” and later, to limit new cases of coronavirus. When it became obvious COVID-19 was still spreading in spite of stay at home orders, governors opted for new requirements, like mandating masks in public, even though the value of the public wearing homemade masks is questionable.  Instead of admitting their policies were little more than ineffective political theater and abandoning their overreaching dictates, pot-committed governors often doubled down by extending existing restrictions and even imposing new ones.

The Myth of “Killing Grandma”

Those who questioned and protested the governmental dictates were attacked as being selfish, anti-science, and even racist.  Those who protested the infringement of their liberties were even accused of wanting to “kill grandma.”

In many states, these lockdowns, which often weren’t even voted upon by state legislatures, still exist, despite statistical evidence stay at home orders have no impact on coronavirus infection or fatality rates.  In fact, nationwide, over 1/3 of all coronavirus cases and fatalities occur in long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living communities.  The fatality rate predictably rises by age, with those under 65 unlikely to perish from the disease unless other comorbidity factors already exist.  Transmission of COVID-19 is very rare during fleeting contacts, such as passing an infected person in a store.  Even governmental officials are implicitly recognizing this, by limiting contact tracing to persons with close and constant contact with infected persons.

There is no disputing COVID-19 is more contagious and more serious than typical strains of influenza.  Worldwide, the fatality rate appears to be about 1.3% for those with symptomatic cases of coronavirus.  The vast majority of people who contract coronavirus recover, including a majority of the most vulnerable patients (those over the age of 85).  In addition, it is estimated that 25% to 50% of all coronavirus cases are asymptomatic. Although the risk of coronavirus should not be understated, it need not be exaggerated either.  Although the raw numbers of cases and deaths may appear alarming, the chance of contracting COVID-19 and having a bad final outcome is still statistically minimal.

Humans are naturally social animals.  They create family units, extended clans, communities, and entire civilizations though voluntary interactions.  These voluntary interactions and socialization are essential to the success of the species.  The United States has developed the most advanced nation in the world through its principles, which are eloquently documented in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The inevitable advancement of our nation was never hindered by the temporary challenges of disease, war, financial depressions, or any other perceived crisis.  Indeed, it is the values of individual liberty that allowed us to weather these challenges.  We are not weakened by our rights and our liberties; we are weakened when we surrender our rights and our liberties.

There are risks throughout life, and each person has the natural right to determine how best to navigate through these risks.  Some may choose to avoid most risks by sequestering themselves in safe environments and avoiding any activities that may potentially be dangerous.  Others may choose to embrace risks, feeling they experience life best while risking it.  Most people fall somewhere in the middle, prudently avoiding likely risks, attempting to mitigate serious, but unlikely outcomes, and living normal lives.  Everyone has the right to determine how they each, individually, wish to balance life’s risks with actually living their lives.

By instituting policies, particularly one-size-fits-all policies, in an attempt to slow the progressions of coronavirus, those holding governmental power have not only implemented ineffective “solutions” that have likely generated more problems than they solved, they have also denied people the natural right to determine their own fates.  The individuals possessing the coercive power of government have determined they alone, not the people themselves, possess the unerring wisdom to dictate the preferences, priorities, and risks each individual may hold.  They have failed to consider that every policy decision has trade-offs, which are often negative.  While responding to the unbridled panic of the public by infringing upon individual liberties, these pandering politicians have failed to address the social and health costs of deferred medical care, the loss of jobs and income, the loss of life savings and businesses that took a lifetime to build, and the ensuing stress, anxiety, and depression tied to these factors.  Most importantly, these smug “leaders” have denied the nation’s citizens their inherent rights to choose their own actions, their own tolerance for risk, and their own paths in life.

Individuals should not be subjected to the whims and preferences of governmental officials and “experts,” especially when those whims directly infringe upon the liberties of the citizens.  Each person has a right to determine the actions he or she wishes to take as it pertains to COVID-19.  A younger adult, in good health who has invested her life savings in a small business may legitimately arrive at the conclusion that the risk of contracting coronavirus, and the risk of permanent adverse impacts, is much less than the risk of losing her business and life savings.  A senior citizen with high blood pressure and diabetes may decide sheltering at home is the safer alternative.  When people decide they have more important priorities than hiding from a virus, particularly if the virus is unlikely to cause them significant harm, no one has the right to prevent them from engaging in the activities of their choice.  Likewise, a person who may be at high risk of adverse outcomes is free to choose to shelter at home until the threat abates. 

Nobody will be “killing grandma.”  If grandma feels she is at risk for adverse outcomes, she is welcome to shelter in place until the viral threat subsides.  Grandma, however, does not have the right to demand everyone else put their lives on hold.

We’re Not “All in This Together”

It is always troubling when someone pretentiously announces “we’re all in this together,” and “everyone must make a sacrifice for the common good.”  There is no common good; there are only tradeoffs inherent in any policy that may benefit some and disadvantage others.  Those demanding “sacrifice” are usually only demanding others sacrifice their liberties to those most fearful in society.  They, themselves, are the last to truly sacrifice anything.  Those who most loudly demand government solutions to somehow manage a natural phenomenon are viewing government as in parentis loco.  In other words, they are plaintively begging their mommies to tell them everything will turn out all right.

Things won’t turn out all right.  COVID-19 is a very contagious disease with a higher-than-average fatality rate.  Although the odds of any one person dying is statistically remote, particularly those in their younger years, millions of people will contract the virus and hundreds of thousands or more will die from it.  Unless an effective vaccine is developed in record time, or the virus unexpectedly mutates into a less potent form, the virus will likely be with us for several years to come.  We can hunker down, destroy our society and economy in the hope the virus will pass us by, or we can live our lives, with each of us taking the precautions we each feel are necessary to avoid or mitigate the impact of the virus.  This is not a decision that should be dictated from above.  It’s a decision that rightfully belongs to each and every individual.

An old adage says, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

Similarly, when politicians are asked to address a problem, their only tool is the blatant exercise of coercive governmental power, usually resulting in the infringement of people’s rights.  Why do we, as a citizenry, compliantly accept the dictates of those wielding political power, especially when those dictates involve an unconstitutional infringement of individual rights?   Why shouldn’t we demand that our representatives figure out ways to address problems (if they really should be involved in the first place) that don’t involve the diminution of our natural and constitutional rights? Why should every response to perceived crises first involve dictatorship and infringement of our liberties?

The media and politicians thrive on creating, exaggerating, and fueling perceived crises.  Addressing crises gives them purpose, drives reader and viewership, and wins them votes.  Unfortunately, crises are also used to instill emotional reactions in the populace, usually fear.  When the population is driven by emotions, particularly panic and fear, they are often willing to surrender their individual rights and sovereignty to whomever promises them security, whether that security really exists or not.  As citizens, we must use reason, rather than emotion, to address the validity and severity of alleged crises, and demand that any governmental actions not involve dictatorship or the deprivation of liberties.

The Romans lost their republic when they voluntarily ceded their rights and self-representation to magistrates granted dictatorial powers to respond to crises or “emergencies.”  Over time, these crises and emergencies grew so frequent that Rome was constantly ruled by dictators, rather than their own Senators.  It did not take long for the Roman Republic to be replaced by the autocratic Roman Empire.

Every time Americans were required to surrender their liberties in response to some perceived crisis, it was later concluded that such actions were unnecessary and an example of governmental overreach or abuse of power.  In spite of this historical reality, we are constantly told it is selfish to resist the dictates of the state, for those dictates are for our own good.  Instead of compliantly submitting to regular governmental dictates to surrender our rights, we should be demanding government respect and protect our rights, and seek out solutions to any emergencies that don’t infringe upon individual choice or liberty.

Elizabeth Warren’s Attack on Success

If anything is a glaring example of pandering, misguided, authoritarian, collectivist tendencies, it is Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to institute a “wealth tax” against individuals with large assets.  Not only is her proposal likely an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against direct taxation, it is a policy designed to penalize success in order to grant Washington the power to redistribute earned wealth to those who haven’t earned it.  In essence, Warren is proposing the seizing of assets from some in order to pay off the political constituencies she prefers.

For generations, economists have suggested that the economy functions best when people save their money, and invest it in areas that help the economy grow.  As an economy grows, overall wealth increases, benefiting all.  This does not mean that equal outcomes ensue, or even that equal outcomes are desirable.  Instead, it means that the producers and investors help grow the economy, producing goods and services valued and used by people of all economic circumstances.  One needs only look at some of the products created, many of which did not even exist twenty or thirty years ago, to see the value of allowing producers to earn, keep, and invest their funds.  Cell phones, pharmaceuticals that cure disease, and personal computers are among the products that were unobtainable a generation ago, but now owned by rich and poor alike.  Although there is obviously inequality in incomes, the fruits of a vibrant economy are made available to all.  The wealth tax, instead of encouraging savings and investments, instead instigates the squandering of money.

Warren, and others of her ilk, believe that the economy is “rigged,” and that only intervention by a select group of bureaucrats and technocrats, using money seized by producers, will allow the attainment of her goal of income equality and equal outcomes for all.  Instead of recognizing the value producers and investors have on the economy, Warren advocates a lowest-common denominator form of economic “equality” in which one’s skills, abilities, and contribution to the economy are ignored and unrewarded, while those who do not offer goods and services needed by the economy are unjustly compensated.  She is under the mistaken assumption that wealth is a fixed-size pie, in which one’s success denies others the opportunity to achieve success.  Warren ignores, or is ignorant of, the fact that wealth can, and is, created and can grow.

As with other politicians with socialist tendencies, Warren ignores the failures of other nations that have imposed wealth taxes.  In the last 27 years, the number of nations instituting wealth taxes has decreased from twelve to four.  It is also worth noting that although Warren claims the wealth tax will only affect the “richest of the rich,” nations with a wealth tax have always quickly lowered the wealth standard to include those with middle-class incomes.  Like the income tax, which was originally levied only on the super-wealthy, any wealth tax will eventually (and quickly) be expanded to affect almost all wage earners.  Once government gets a taste of additional tax revenues, its hunger for more taxes to fund politicians’ pet proposals inevitably increases.

Even if one ignores the inherent immorality of seizing one’s earned assets (which were already taxed when they were initially earned), one can not ignore the huge and intrusive bureaucracy that must be established to ensure compliance with the wealth tax.  The wealth tax is not limited to assets in financial institutions which can easily be traced; it also is levied against any fixed assets or property owned by the citizenry.  Will tax authorities be given the power to break into people’s homes to ensure that they are properly declaring the value of their furniture, artworks, clothing, vehicles, etc.?  Will people who invest in tangible goods be penalized, while people who squander their money on consumable products and experiences (such as opulent food, entertainment, and travel) be spared the burden of the wealth tax?  How is it fair that those who prefer tangible property over experiences should be burdened by additional taxes?

In practice, any imposition of a wealth tax will likely lead to the conversion of assets to easily hidden and transferable assets like precious metals and jewels.  In fact, the institution of a wealth tax will likely cause the creation of a parallel, underground economy, in which gold and silver are used for untraceable transactions.  This will place a burden on the national currency system, causing an outflow of assets that must be replaced by the printing of additional currency.  This, in itself, will create inflationary pressures that could be as significant as the hyper-inflation experienced by Weimar Germany in the 1920’s and ‘30’s or more recently, Venezuela.  Capital used for investments will diminish, resulting in a stagnant or collapsing economy.

Finally, Warren’s proposal includes a caveat that attacks even the appearance of individual liberty and self-determination.  If a person subject to the wealth tax decides that he or she wishes to relocate to a nation that actually values productivity and success, that individual will be subject to a confiscatory tax that seizes 40% of their total assets before they can move.  Not since the fall of the Berlin Wall have we seen any nation erect such substantial barriers to prevent its citizenry from seeking out greener pastures or freely moving wherever they wish.  Warren is proposing the imposition of an economic prison that will extort wealth from producers and limit the ability of producers to engage in self-determination.  In essence, Warren is advancing the creation of an economic despotism that replaces free-enterprise and rewards for success with a centralized, socialized, command economy dictated by a small group of selected “elites.”  Not only is her proposal immoral and unconstitutional, it repudiates the values of individual liberty upon which our nation was founded.

The Republican Choice for President

I’ve had more than a few people ask me my preference for the Republican primary. Up until this point, I’ve been hesitant to name a preference. I tend to have very strong libertarian leanings, believing that individual rights, as outlined in our Constitution, take precedence over a collectivist, socialist system. Accordingly, my preferred candidate for the GOP nomination was Rand Paul. I also deeply admire the presumptive Libertarian Party nominee, Gov. Gary Johnson, and, depending upon how the campaign plays out, might vote for him in November.

For anyone who has read my blog or any of my Facebook entries, it is obvious that I can’t, and won’t, support either of the two remaining Democratic candidates. We do not need a president dedicated to pandering to every left-wing interest group and who advocates forcing his or her pet social-engineering projects on the population through governmental coercion. Private property is one of the cornerstones of liberty. Both Democratic candidates believe that their personal perception of the “public good” grants them the right to seize private property as they see fit to fund and support any group to which they wish to pander.

That leaves the five remaining candidates seeking the Republican nomination. I urge all voters to carefully read the candidate’s websites and to take some time to review their positions on the issues and their histories.

It is no secret that I consider Donald Trump a danger to both the Republican Party and to the nation. Historically, Trump has backed Democratic candidates and has supported “activist” government programs, like socialized medicine and the use of eminent domain for private projects. He has been very vague on most issues of substance, substituting bravado and insults for nuanced policy positions. He is not afraid of throwing his weight around to bully those with whom his disagrees, and there is no reason to believe that this pattern would change if he became president. He displays an alarming naïveté on foreign affairs, doing all he can to insult and alienate our nation’s neighbors and allies. His whole campaign has been based upon nationalist appeal, the venting of anger without any substantive remedies, and tapping into vague, populist slogans. When cornered on specifics, he has let slip an inclination towards an increase in federal governmental scope and power. The world saw what happened when industrialized nations elected National Socialists in the 1920’s and 1930’s. We don’t need to repeat that history here in the United States.

Ben Carson has arguably developed one of the most comprehensive, detailed, and workable set of policies on today’s issues. His proposal for a national, flat income tax is fantastic for its simplicity, effectiveness, and fairness. I urge everyone to take some time to take a look at his policy positions on his website.

While Dr. Carson is an affable and likeable candidate, I harbor serious doubts about his experience and overall temperament, and believe those to be current impediments to his ability to both win the election and to serve as an effective president. He would be a beneficial addition to anyone’s administration, particularly as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or Surgeon General. I hope that his current campaign is just the start, and not the end, of his commitment to national service.

Either of the remaining three candidates would make fine presidents, and would be vastly preferable to either of the Democratic candidates.

John Kasich has had a solid record, both as a Congressman and as Governor of Ohio. He has confronted many challenges in Ohio, and has handled all of them well. However, he still has a tendency to rely upon governmental programs, when the free-market would be far more effective. With the exception of Trump, Kasich has been most vague about his policy plans once in the White House. He has, rightfully, extolled his record as governor, but has not been very specific as to what he will accomplish as president. I am looking for a more detailed and specific set of plans than what Kasich has already advanced.

Ted Cruz has laid out a fairly detailed set of proposals, and most of them are pretty solid. He is arguably the strongest Constitutionalist of the remaining candidates. He is a fervent believer in the Constitution and in respecting the limitations of federal power. He is the candidate least-likely to pander to specific interest groups in order to solicit political support. His vocal opposition to ethanol subsidies while campaigning in Iowa is a testament to his integrity on the issues and fidelity to his beliefs.

While I would probably have few reservations about voting for Cruz over either Clinton or Sanders, I do find some aspects of his positions and temperament troubling. His corporate tax plan seems to be a value added tax in disguise. I am always reluctant about supporting new ways to tax individuals and businesses, since such taxes always seem to supplement, rather than replace, other forms of taxation.

I also find his positions on immigration and social issues to be a bit too hardline. The government has no more business interfering in people’s private lives than it does their economic affairs. In addition, we have over ten million illegal immigrants in our country. While the United States certainly has a right, and an obligation, to secure our borders, illegal immigration has been tacitly accepted by government, private industry, and individual citizens with a “wink and nod” for generations. A nativist element in the country uses the issue of illegal immigration as a cover to express their deeply held prejudices. The rest of the country has had, in one form or another, no problem in hiring illegals when it was convenient. While I believe the government has no obligation to provide welfare and other governmental benefits to illegal immigrants, I believe that we need a more realistic policy towards them than just “throwing them out of the country.”

Finally, Cruz’s temperament is a potential issue. It is no secret that he is a strident advocate for his views, and this stridency has won him few friends among his Senate colleagues. His campaign has also engaged in very questionable tactics, using dirty-tricks to a far greater extent than any of his rivals. A president needs to work effectively with both members of his own party and with the opposition. Reagan did this masterfully, while failed presidents like Carter and Obama were less adept. We need a president who will be able to work effectively with Congress, while maintaining fidelity to his beliefs. While I have no doubt about the sincerity of Cruz’s beliefs, I do have serious doubts about his ability to work well with other politicians of either party.

Marco Rubio has pretty solid positions on most of the issues. His tax plan, while not a flat tax that I would prefer, is well thought-out and comprehensive. He is a solid Constitutionalist, and would certainly appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court. He does have the personality to work effectively with others in government, while maintaining his ideological integrity.

Rubio’s history on the immigration issue is mixed. I believe that the attempts of the so-called “Gang of Eight” were well-intentioned. Their proposals acknowledged the reality that exists, and did not solely pander to either the nativist or social-engineering liberal elements. However, he has supported expansions of the H1-B visa programs, which have had a detrimental impact on some U.S. workers. He has since backed off his previous support of H1-B visas.

Rubio is young, and is not as experienced as I would prefer. But he is far more experienced than our current president, and has demonstrated his leadership skills and ability to work with other politicians. I think he has laid out a solid foreign policy platform and has the ability to be a very successful leader.

While I would have no problem with selecting Kasich or Cruz over either Clinton or Sanders, I think that Marco Rubio would be the most effective president of the current candidates of the two major parties, and will be the most electable of the current Republican candidates.

 

The Tyranny of Legislation

In a society based upon the principles of individual liberty, there is a need for only seven laws:

  1. One may not take another’s life unless one’s life or property is in imminent danger.
  2. One may not physically assault another individual unless one’s life or property is in imminent danger.
  3. No one has a right to take, use, or damage another’s property without the voluntary consent of the owner of such property.
  4. Commerce must be conducted honestly. All products and services must be represented accurately and function as described and intended.
  5. All parties who voluntarily enter into an agreement or contract are obligated to fulfill the terms of said agreement or contract.
  6. All social and economic interactions must be undertaken on a voluntary basis. No one must be coerced to engage in any social or economic activity.
  7. An individual’s personal rights must always be respected and protected. No personal, moral, societal, or other preferences supersede the rights of personal liberty.

Laws may be legitimately passed to clarify each of these seven laws. For example, laws or regulations preventing one from causing pollution may be legitimate, since pollution emanating from one individual or concern may damage the property of another. Laws that ensure commerce is conducted honestly may be legitimate, provided that such laws don’t hinder commerce or provide an advantage or penalize any party.

Any type of law not addressed by the above seven laws is probably illegitimate in a free society. These include laws in which one’s personal morality, preferences, or ideals are coercively imposed upon another. Examples of these types of illegitimate laws include laws that regulate individual behaviors that do not infringe upon the liberties of others. Sexual practices, religious preferences, economic decisions, personal moral beliefs, and lifestyle choices are areas that should not be subject to coercive legislation.

Laws should also not be passed to address the economic or social preferences of any group of individuals, regardless of how noble or useful such preferences appear. Not only do attempts to establish a “nanny state” paternalistic society inevitably fail, they also are an affront to the concept of personal liberty. One should have the freedom to make one’s own decisions, even if those decisions are bad. When government tries to act as the arbiter of “good decisions,” or attempts to protect people from the consequences of their decisions, that government creates a society of mediocrity. In such a society, the population has no personal incentive to make good decisions, since government protects them from their own failures. Conversely, and more importantly, such a society also discourages risk taking. Those who have accomplished the most throughout history have usually been those who were willing to assume the largest risk and to deviate from conventional thinking. A paternalistic nanny state merely reinforces and rewards the status quo. It actively discourages new thinking and the new ideas that fuel economic and social progress.

Attempts to create social or economic engineering solutions through the coercive power of government, besides infringing upon personal liberty, inevitably lead to unintended consequences. These so-called solutions usually involve providing an advantage or reward to a certain group, while denying the same advantages or rewards to other groups. This means that government, instead of protecting individual liberty and initiative, actively interferes with the organic growth of the economy or society by imposing its preferences for behavior or outcomes. For example, providing tax incentives to specific industries artificially inflates the value of these industries, while ignoring or penalizing industries that may actually produce more societal or economic good if left to compete in a free marketplace. This also creates an atmosphere that invites governmental corruption, as any special interest will lobby, petition, or bribe the government for special favors. When a favor is granted to any specific interest, other interests are, by definition, penalized by not being allowed to compete on the same level. Rather than competing on merit, by the strength of their own products or services and their acceptance in a free marketplace, organizations are forced, in this corrupt environment, to compete upon the basis of the clout they wield in government. There is no economic or societal advantage in using clout, rather than merit, to determine the success or failure of any undertaking.

The same argument about unintended consequences holds true to legislation that attempts to regulate personal behavior. The attempt to ban the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages failed miserably. People routinely ignored the law (leading to a breakdown in respect for government) and illegal organization sprung up and thrived in order to satisfy the demand for the now-illegal beverages. A similar situation exists in the consumption of recreational drugs. Legislation outlawing the consumption of recreational substances and the so-called “War on Drugs” did little to stifle demand for these substances. Instead, these laws caused the emergence of illegal organizations and cartels to supply the inherent demand for these substances. Since this commerce is illegal, there are no contractual controls to govern the behavior of these organizations or ways to ensure that such commerce is conducted honestly. It should come as no surprise that these illegal organizations engage in violent behavior, since their basic trade is illegal to begin with.

In order to combat the violence caused by organizations that have sprung up in response to such ill conceived laws, public law enforcement has had to become more militaristic in order to fight the violence, and more and more laws that restrict basic civil rights and liberties have been passed in order to address the problems caused by this illegal trade. For example, in order to prevent cash transactions and money laundering by drug cartels, Americans can no longer conduct any cash commerce in excess of $10,000 without notifying Federal authorities. Even if the authorities are notified, civil forfeiture laws allow government authorities to seize property if they claim to suspect such money or property was obtained through illicit drug sales. There is no need for due process before seizing a person’s property – suspicion is enough. It is up to the owner of the property to prove that their property was obtained through legitimate means. The basic concept of innocence until proven guilty, which is a cornerstone of a free society, is abandoned in order to maintain the façade of legislation initially enacted to create a socially engineered solution to a perceived problem.

There is no denying that addiction can be a tragic and debilitating experience. However, the choice to consume an addictive substance rests solely with the individual choosing to indulge in these substances. He or she should bear the brunt of those decisions, not society as a whole. The entire population should not have their behavior constrained, or liberties restricted, because a small proportion of the population fails to make good decisions. Attempts to use the coercive power of government to regulate specific behaviors not only fails to ensure good decisions by the targeted population, such legislation usually has significant negative effects on the rest of the populace.

Laws that exceed the seven listed above are fundamentally an attempt by a group of people to impose, through threat of government-enforced force or forfeiture, their will upon others. No matter how well-intentioned, laws that impose the will of one group upon another group are an assault on personal freedom. The United States was not founded upon the principle of the mediocrity of collectivism. It was founded upon the principles of individual liberty and personal initiative. We must be very vigilant when leaders or candidates propose “solutions” that exceed the scope of these seven basic laws. Although they may craft a compelling argument in favor of their solutions, these “solutions” are merely the leader or candidate’s attempt to impose his or her will on the populace. There is a term for the form of government that coercively imposes its own preferences on the population, even if the leaders are “freely” elected by the populace. That term is “dictatorship.”

 

Why the Left Truly Hates the Citizens United Decision

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (better known as the McCain–Feingold Act) prevented corporations and unions from funding any advertisements mentioning a candidate, or “electioneering communications,” within 30 days prior to a primary election or 60 days before a general election.  The law prevented any incorporated entity, including unions, corporations, and non-profit corporations, from using their funds to advocate for any issue, if any federal candidate’s name was included, in broadcast advertisements.  For example, within 60 days of a general election, a right to life organization could not air an anti-abortion ad if the name of any federal candidate were included.  An environmental advocacy organization would likewise be prohibited from broadcasting an advertisement in favor of clean-air standards if they chose to name any candidate for elected office.

From the start, this law was attacked by citizens as an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech and the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances.  In a number of cases, beginning in 2007, the Supreme Court agreed with the unconstitutional nature of the McCain-Feingold Act.  Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (2007), Davis v. Federal Election Commission (2008), and, finally, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) Supreme Court decisions effectively gutted the key provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act, finding them an unconstitutional restraint on the ability of organizations to engage in political speech.

Since these decisions were announced, particularly the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissions decision, many, particularly the so-called “progressives,” have been apoplectic.  They argue that allowing organizations of individuals the right to spend their own money advocating for or against political issues (and particularly, naming candidates’ stands on those issues) corrupts the political process by allowing wealthy organizations to “buy” governmental influence.

In this instance, the Supreme Court got it right.  (It may even be argued the Supreme Court didn’t go far enough in its decision).  The First Amendment clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Italics mine).  There is no mention in the Constitution of limiting these rights to specific time periods or of restricting the types of communications that constitute freedom of speech.  The First Amendment has no restriction on who may exercise these rights or on how much an organization can spend on expressing their views.  The Constitution is clear that “Congress shall make no law” restricting these rights.  McCain-Feingold served to restrict First Amendment rights, and was rightfully ruled unconstitutional.

Recognizing the futility of trying to limit this type of speech through legislative means, “progressives” are trying to amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision.  Most recently, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill calling for a Constitutional Convention to consider amendments to limit the “corrupting influence of excessive spending by outside interests.”  What the “progressives” don’t outright admit is that they are less concerned about the “corrupting influence of excessive spending” than they are of ensuring that the corruption is limited to advocating positions with which they agree.

There are many ways to influence governmental policy and spending money to air issue advocacy advertisements is just one of them.  Virtually every organization employs lobbyists who help craft legislation and garner support for it.  Organizations recruit and support “grass roots” volunteers to solicit support for favored candidates and legislation.  Political parties collect donations and dole them out to selected candidates.  Citizens can, and do (particularly in the age of the Internet), circulate petitions advocating for or against specific issues.  Ordinary citizens are free to write to their legislators or publish their own views using the media of their choice.  Why aren’t the “progressives” up in arms with these attempts to “corrupt” the political process? The issues the “progressives” have with independent expenditures of private money to influence legislation has less to do with corruption and more to do with control.  Organizations using their own money to advocate for their favored political positions cannot be influenced or restrained by specific political parties.  Political parties, or organizations beholden to them, are the chief organizers of “grass roots” campaigns.  They can easily control the influence and use of lobbyists through legislation.  But they have absolutely no control as to what a specific organization can say through independent political advertising.  Anyone, not just organizations favored by incumbent politicians, can craft, disseminate, and shape political issues.

So-called “progressives” are worried that moneyed interests, through their ability to fund issue advertising, will have an inordinate influence due to their wealth.  Besides underestimating the ability of the American public to engage in their own critical thinking, this argument ignores the fact that allowing private organizations to air their opinions is far more democratic than limiting messages to time frames and content approved by the government.  In addition, the value of individual wealth is greatly overestimated.  Organizations, particularly labor unions and non-profit corporations could pool small amounts of money from large numbers of donors to advocate for their favorite political positions.  Issue advocacy advertising is not the exclusive domain of a few wealthy individuals or corporations – it is now available to any group able to organize like-minded individuals and gain their financial support.

“Progressive” legislators and their supporters say they are worried that the ability of independent organizations to spend their money on issue advocacy will “corrupt” the political process.  By using this argument, the legislators are admitting they can easily be corrupted and will be unduly influenced by messages aired by independent entities.  In fact, legislators are already corrupted by messages emanating from their own political parties.  In every legislature, there is a party position called a “whip,” whose job it is to instill legislative discipline on its own party members.  The true issue is not one of corruption or undue influence – the “progressives” are really worried about who dictates the influence.  Because they, or their political organizations, have no control over the messages disseminated by independent organizations, the “progressives” lose their monopoly on shaping the types and content of messages received by the American public.  This is the true concern for those fighting to overturn the Citizens United decision.

If the “progressives” were truly concerned that those airing issue advocacy ads could “buy” government influence, they would shrink the size and scope of government so that there is nothing worth buying.  As long as the government insists of extending its tentacles into every aspect of human and corporate behavior, there will be those trying to exercise their influence so that government policies benefit their own specific interests.  Attempting to outlaw specific means to influence policy (particularly when allowing other techniques) does nothing to solve the perceived problem of groups attempting to purchase governmental influence.  There will always be those who attempt to corrupt the system by asserting undue influence as long as the government wields the power to control individual and business decisions.  There will always be legislators, and other government officials, willing to sell their offices to the highest bidder.  The solution to this problem is not to ban the constitutionally-protected right to free speech and to petition the government.  The solution is to remove the temptation to influence government by reducing the areas in which influence can be peddled.

Sadly, this is anathema to most “progressives.”  “Progressives” are dedicated to using government to advance their agenda of controlling the populace.  Reducing the scope of government, in addition to allowing independent issue advocacy, is an assault on their monopoly of control.