American Government

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Why our Government is different than others? Of course it's debatable whether we are that different. But there is one fundamental difference: Americans once understood liberty and tolerance. Even if both were selectively applied, at least we tried to understand them. Most government and people's don't even get that far.

Differences

In my mind, what made our government different from all other governments in the world is that we designed a system to put individual rights above the group. We are not a democracy, where the majority rules, contrary to most who naively think this is true). We are a Constitutional Republic, where the Constitution protects the individuals from the tyranny of the masses (or few in power). This is the job of our Society (voters), our President, our Representatives, and our Legal System / Supreme Court (1).

(1) Of course all of those people have been on mental hiatus since about the Civil War (and weren't that sharp before then either), so the goal has been perverted, but the original goal was noble even if we have fallen far short on implementation. We have usually gotten closer to that goal than most Nations, despite our flaws.

So our federal Government (Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution, and all that) was created in such a way as to use Government force to protect the individual, and keep their rights and freedoms sacrosanct. If you doubt it, read the Bill of Rights again, and read what most of the founding fathers wrote on the issues (other than one or two federalists).

The Federal Government exists to PROTECT our freedoms (civil rights), not to encroach on them -- and it exists to protect us FROM itself. The federal Government also exists to protect international and interstate trade, to negotiate treaties, and to provide for national defense. But other than those things, everything else is extraconstitutional (and violates the spirit of the Constitution).Every Social Program, Redistribution of Wealth, Opression of rights and freedoms, and so on, is NOT what MOST of the founding fathers had in mind -- and should not be federal law (and should be left to states and communities). If you doubt me, reread --

Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Rights belong to the people (individuals), and that the constitution is meant to protect those rights -- not encroach on them. The Federal Government should not be twisted into doing things other than what is enumerated in the Constitution , and Amendments are hard to pass so that the Federal Government will actually have a very narrow charter. Sadly, this is not what the federalists (both Republican and Democrats) have twisted our Government into.

Specialization vs. Generalization

The reasons for our Constitution being set up this way has to do with the age old argument of specialization (local) vs. generalization (central). Who knows what is best for your community -- your community, or some group of weirdo's halfway across the nation? When you make general rules they may make sense in one state or area, and they are usually completely wrong for another area. Standardizing on Windows may make sense in one company or dept., but may is completely wrong for another (because of differing needs). (This is how my philosophy on politics and computers are related). Laws prohibiting thong bikini's may be valid in Iowa, and invalid in Hawaii. And so on, and so on. There are few if any laws that make sense across sub-cultures (nation wide). So the point is that we should only govern issues of human rights at the federal level. Leave all other issue issues, of morality, behavior, business, charity, social programs and so on, to the states (or communities) -- where they make far more sense. Allow for specialization.

What pro-Big-Government (central authority) are really saying is that they know what is best for everyone else. It is not about helping others, or tolerance -- it is about putting a gun to their heads and saying, "If I don't approve of X, in my community, then I'm going to try to cram those regional (ethnocentric) views down your communities throat", or "if I believe X is a valid charity in my area, I'm going to force you to give to it as well... whether you need it or want it or not" -- all under threat of federal guns. They use the excuse of one wrong (too much power in companies or in the hands of the rich), as an excuse to perpetuate a bigger wrong (even MORE power being put into their hands, and the hands of Government, to opress people on a far larger scale).

What a great and tolerant society we will have, when every group or special interest is fighting to cram their views down everyone else's throats -- all through the use of federal law/power, and all in the name of tolerance. Oh, wait -- we already have that. We have Federalized Education that has harmed as much as it has helped. We have centralized pollution control, so now some states that have to pay companies to pollute their rivers, so that they can clean them up enough to comply with federal standards (which dictate how much you must clean up). We have every group and their brother trying to pass federal controls that will apply to parts of the nation where they are unneeded and make no sense. These clueless, but well meaning, people are empowering all the evils they claim that they are against. They have fragmented our society, destroyed freedom, and perverted our Constituion -- all in the name of creating a more harmoneous society (living under their totalitarian rule).

The whole point is that we shouldn't use the federal Government to impose our beliefs on others -- that is for local and State Governments (where individuals have a larger voice, and greater influence).

Now what does this mean?

We all want others to behave responsibly, and realize the value of community, society, and so on -- but the costs are tolerance, freedom and less federalization (more localization).

Some like to pretend that my views are about greed, amorality, anarchy or lack of responsibility. They are just the opposite -- they about freedom of opportunity and responsibility. If you get nothing else out of this article, remember this -- For someone to do what is right (for the right reasons), they must be free to do what is wrong.

Putting a gun to a mans head and saying that he should give to charity (or else you'll splatter his brains across the wall), is not teaching him anything (other than to hate you, and resent charity -- especially yours). More than that, the means are wrong, and the ends does not justify the means! Even if the threatened man will do what you believe is right -- he will do so for all the wrong reasons. You may even win the short term battle (getting the support to help others), but the costs are way way too high.

That is what most entitlements, and most Government programs are about -- making people do what you believe is right, at gunpoint. Even the name "entitlements" is a twisted way to imply that some are deserving of the rewards of theft. It is no longer about charity and community and giving (voluntarily) to help others -- it becomes about one group being entitled to steal from another. So both sides learn to hate each other. The robbers, and the recipients of that theft, feel resentment because they are never getting enough. The robbed feel resentment for being robbed and because they are never getting to give (giving is voluntary, not manditory)!

So by trying to shortcut, and taking the lazy way out (Government force), we have harmed our society. Remember, in life every action has a reaction, and there are always tradeoffs. By forcing charity, instead of a man learning the consequences of his actions (if he doesn't give), or learning the good he can do and feeling of contribution to his society (if he does), he only resents you and everything you stand for and the group he helped. He was not free to choose. He will not choose to help again -- unless you keep that gun to his head. He had no say, no power, and no freedom. You are threatening all his inalienable rights. So instead of curing the REAL diseases and problems (indifference, apathy, detachment from community, RESPONSIBILITY and so on) you only attack the symptoms (some people in society not getting enough, so you take it). This causes the exact opposite of what we want (long term) -- and ignores the reactions of your actions.

The costs are high for NOT doing that -- that is called freedom. Yes, people in need will get less -- but they will get by (they always have), and they will learn values and learn that charity IS CHARITY (not an entitlement). Yes, some programs will have to be localized -- which means specialized, made more efficient, more in tune with the needs of that community. Yes, the community will have to get involved to pick up the slack -- but it will all be done voluntarily (as it was in the past). Things will probably get worse for some, short term, so that society can learn and get better, long term! People will have more of a voice in their Government (since it is smaller and more accessable), people will see the consequences of their actions (in the community around them), and people will learn the RIGHT things, by the right means!

Conclusion

Being an advocate of the poor with the toils of your own efforts, like Mother Theressa, is a noble cause. You are giving of yourself, or encouraging others to do so freely. I respect and admire that.

Being an advocate of theft, in the name of the poor, is not nearly so noble. It is just a rationalization to empower yourself or others. It is taking a shortcut that will cost you (and society) far more later on.

So next time you are thinking about making some federal program, or are supporting someone who does (Democrat or Republican), why don't you really think about the consequences of your actions. Long term as well as short term. Think about what Government really is about. Think not just about the ends -- but the means of your actions. Think about freedom, responsibility, consequences, and what this nation (or other nations) should stand for. Think about what you want to stand for as a person.

Written: 1998.03.13