TAMPA, June 6, 2013 – You can’t say the mainstream media went to sleep. Today, the front page of every major national news website is featuring reactions to Glenn Greenwald’s explosive report on the FISA court order that “requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”
That means that the government is collecting information on every call made on Verizon’s service, regardless of probable cause or any suspicion that the parties have committed a crime. The Fourth Amendment was written specifically to prohibit this activity by the government. But they’re doing it, unapologetically.
The question is, what will this disturbingly subservient group called “We the People’ do about it?
It’s really time to stop making excuses. This has been duly reported by the media and it’s not like the people are powerless to do anything. When Congress first attempted to pass the infamous Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (a.k.a. the “Wall Street bailout”), angry calls from voters caused the bill to be defeated in Congress. For one, brief, shining moment, there was real fear of the people on the faces of our so-called “representatives.”
After President Bush emerged from weeks of virtual silence to deliver his “support this bailout or the world will end” speech, the tone of the calls moderated and Congress felt sufficiently comfortable to pass the bill the second time around (bluffed by George W. Bush – now that’s embarrassing).
Regardless, the episode clearly demonstrated that if even a significant minority of the population cares enough to at least make a call to their representatives, they can affect the behavior of the beast on the Potomac.
Unfortunately, they usually don’t. In fact, anyone concerned about the size, power or cost of the federal government who thinks that it is somehow acting “unconstitutionally” really needs a reality check.
True, most of what the federal government does today isn’t authorized by the powers delegated to it in the yellow piece of parchment. In theory, that means that the people never consented to the government exercising the power and therefore it is illegitimate, even illegal. But that’s not really what “constitutional” has meant for most of human history or even what it has meant in practice for most of U.S. history.
Aristotle wrote about “constitutional government” long before any written constitution was attempted. Thomas Paine began his famous treatise with “Concise Remarks on the English Constitution.” He was not referring to a written document that specifically delegated which powers the English government could exercise (Magna Carta did not do this). There was no written English constitution.
So what did these writers mean by “constitution?” They meant the general understanding of most people in those countries about what powers the government had and how they were allocated between the various branches.
That is what “constitution” and “constitutional” has meant for most of human history and it is really the only practical definition. The attempt to codify limits on the government’s power in a written document has been a complete failure. The government simply interprets the words however outlandishly necessary to do what they want and get their high priests in black robes to pronounce their scheme “constitutional.”
And it is constitutional if no one objects. That’s reality.
Using this definition, the historical growth of the $4 trillion federal monster has been completely constitutional. Not only has there been little objection by the people, but they have for the most part overwhelmingly supported each new usurpation. The Federal Reserve was passed with overwhelming public support, as was the Income Tax. FDR was elected four times, three after his technically unconstitutional “New Deal” was clearly promulgated and understood by the people.
Just watch your fellow Americans laugh and joke with TSA agents while having their persons and property searched without a warrant or probable cause, even while the government puts its hands on their children. That makes it “constitutional” in the true sense of the word, the Fourth Amendment notwithstanding.
Even the Patriot Act enjoyed popular support, for the most part. Yes, there was some noise about it from liberals, but for the most part only because a Republican Congress and president passed it. Want proof? Count the number of liberals besides Greenwald presently objecting to Obama doing the very same thing they wanted Bush impeached for. You can keep one hand in your pocket.
Those few libertarians, Old Right conservatives and civil libertarian progressives who are still concerned about freedom here in the “land of the free” have to face the reality of what we’re up against. It is not a government acting against the wishes of the people. It is the people themselves, who have traded liberty for security, whether personal or economic, at every opportunity.
As James Madison said, “Democracy is the most vile form of government.”
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.