We've all been deluged with reports of scandals emanating from our bloated, out-of-control 'Big Brother' government in recent weeks, including:
- The IRS illegally targeted conservative, religious and right-of-center groups and individuals;
- The NSA intercepted nearly all electronic communications within and outside the USA, ignoring our right to and expectation of privacy in flagrant, blatant disregard of the US Constitution and legal jurisprudence;
- The Administration appears to be deliberately delaying, obfuscating and ignoring inquiries into the Benghazi affair, in an attempt to protect key players within its ranks, up to and including President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton;
- The Department of Justice obtained journalists' phone records, and even claimed that one journalist might be a co-conspirator in the leaking of classified information, in efforts to clamp down on the leaking of secret and confidential information to the news media. Its behavior has been called 'criminalizing journalism'.
- Going further back, the current Administration is ramming through changes to health care laws and regulations that override religious objections to various procedures, forcing organizations and individuals with such reservations to nevertheless provide and/or pay for health care that violates them. As Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia has observed, "The day when Americans could take the Founders' understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up."
There's been a mass outpouring of indignation over these excesses - and rightly so. However, most of this verbal diarrhea completely misses the point. These latest scandals are merely the most visible and in-your-face symptoms of a problem that's been growing for almost a century, ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed through his 'New Deal' legislation. The problem is that politicians have used administrative organizations, structures and powers to make the people dependent on government handouts and largesse. 'Big Government' has become a self perpetuating monstrosity. (Please follow all those links for some very interesting and enlightening discussions.)
It begins with entitlement programs and aid to favored groups - those who can reliably deliver votes. For decades politicians have tried to ensure their own re-election by promising milk and honey, wine and roses to whoever will vote for them and/or their party - and they've succeeded. Today less than 20% of Congressional and Senate seats change occupants in a typical election, despite rampant (and blatant) corruption, nepotism and malfeasance among our elected leaders. (To name just one example of these evils, Congress exempted itself from insider trading legislation. When called on that, it repealed its protection . . . but only until public attention turned elsewhere. As soon as it could, it repealed its repeal, so that today Representatives and Senators and their staffs can once again trade using inside information without fear of prosecution.) Look at the number of Representatives and Senators who've grown rich in office. Think that's due to their lavish salaries? Nope. Think again.
Trouble is, this focus on aiding the 'poor' and 'underprivileged' rapidly changed focus. The so-called 'American Dream' was originally about equality of opportunity; that everyone in this country had the same opportunity to 'make it', given hard work and dedication. The apostles and preachers of Big Government corrupted this to equality of outcome; namely that rewards should be evenly distributed as far as possible, without this distribution necessarily being commensurate with ability or effort. (In so many words, it's a modern quasi-Socialist version of Marx's infamous dictum, 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need'.) Taxation has become little more than a tool for redistribution of wealth, with the 'rich' demonized as 'not paying their fair share', despite the fact that they're already paying by far the largest proportion of all taxes on individuals in this country. That's politically irrelevant. They still have more than the 'poor', therefore, by definition, they're not contributing enough. Q.E.D.
This attitude of 'Big Brother knows what's best for you' has since expanded to include the 'security state'. In the face of the terror attacks of 9/11, the US government's knee-jerk reaction was to tighten the reins, curbing individual civil liberties and Constitutionally-guaranteed rights in an effort to improve the safety and security of society as a whole. It did so by basically ignoring the Constitution, passing legislation such as the Patriot Act and then employing the whole power of the State to ensure that it was applied. When courts struck down certain provisions of such legislation, the authorities either appealed against their rulings, or passed new legislation to reimpose such provisions, or blatantly and actively ignored the rulings and continued to do as they saw fit. The latest scandals are merely the latest symptoms of the latter attitude. "We're in charge - we know what's best for you - we're going to do it, whether you like it or not, and if you object, you're part of the problem. So there!"
Two oft-repeated quotations sum up the current situation. I'm sure my readers have seen both of them on far too many occasions for comfort. Indeed, they've become clichés today . . . but that doesn't mean they're not as true now as they've ever been, if not more so.
The first is by Benjamin Franklin, who famously observed:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
The American people have done precisely that - and today, the results are clear to see. If the US electorate consents to this abdication of liberty by re-electing those responsible for enacting the laws that have permitted it, it will prove conclusively that it 'deserves neither liberty nor safety', and demonstrate that the ideals of our Founding Fathers are effectively dead, along with the provisions and values of the US Constitution.
The second quote is from C. S. Lewis, who pointed out:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
The tragedy is, many of those who authorized the excesses revealed in the recent scandals, and many of those who perpetrated them, probably sincerely believe that they're acting for the good of those victimized by their actions, and for the good of society as a whole. Last year saw a widely publicized call by a so-called 'Professor of Constitutional Law' to actually ignore the US Constitution in order to accomplish what he saw as necessary for the good of the country. The fact that the authority of those who govern us, and their very election to office, is derived from that same Constitution, appeared to never even enter into his head. If the authority of the Constitution is destroyed, whether by omission or commission, so is the authority of those who hold office in terms of it, and the legality and legitimacy of their actions.
Perhaps it's best to close with another quotation from the inimitable Ben Franklin.
The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Can we keep our Republic, in the face of these scandals? The response of the American people will tell us that. If they fail to throw out those who've legalized and/or perpetrated and/or tolerated these crimes . . . then our Republic is doomed. So is our Constitution, and the traditions handed down to us by our Founding Fathers.
There will be those who refuse to accept this. I'm one of them. I swore an oath.
I ... do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
I will keep my oath. It wasn't just empty, meaningless words to me. I will never accept or co-operate with attempts to ride roughshod over what I swore to support and defend, or negate those principles I hold dear.
Unfortunately, those of us who think that way appear to be in an ever-diminishing minority right now. Whether or not we - and our principles - can survive this crisis, remains to be seen.
EDITED TO ADD: As Old NFO asks, 'What's the last straw?'