August 22, 2014

Republicans as wrong as Democrats on Sandy Relief

TAMPA, January 5, 2013 – There is yet another faux debate raging in Congress. According to Fox News, the House and Senate have passed a $9.7 billion aid package for Sandy victims. Most Democrats and Republicans are calling for an additional $51 billion.

Some Republicans are dragging their feet.

It would be encouraging if even a single Republican articulated the principle at issue here, but none have. Republicans in Congress couldn’t find a principle if it were slid under their doors with envelopes full of lobbyist cash.

For the record, the principle is this: Citizens in Wyoming shouldn’t be taxed to rebuild the houses of other people in Wyoming, much less New York or New Jersey. This is another bedrock American principle that has completely vanished from the minds of most Americans.

Instead, Republicans object on the grounds that not all of the proposed funding is necessary for immediate relief. In fact, there is some considerable pork built into both the House and Senate versions of the bill, including “$150 million for fishery disasters in a range of states — including Alaska and Mississippi” and “nearly $45 million was included for work on NOAA’s hurricane reconnaissance aircraft.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted against it, saying, “We have to talk seriously about offsets,” he said. “We can’t take $60 billion off budget, that’s my problem with it.”

The common sense and acknowledgement of reality are refreshing, but Huelskamp still avoids the main issue.

Property is a right, just like free speech. It was recognition of the right of each individual to keep the fruits of his own labor and dispose of them as he saw fit that made the United States the richest nation in the world, relatively overnight.

While the immediate cause for the outbreak of hostilities during the American Revolution was the British attempt to disarm the colonists, the long term cause was the British threat against property rights.

American schoolchildren are taught that the colonists’ only grievance was “taxation without representation.” That’s convenient for big government progressives on both sides of the aisle, because they can then say, “You are represented, so we can tax you however we please.”

Those schoolchildren are not taught that the colonists also did not want representation in the British Parliament. Jefferson said so in his Summary View of the Rights of British America. Benjamin Franklin was strictly instructed not to accept any deal with the British that involved colonial representation in Parliament.

The colonists wanted no part of any political system whereby they could be taxed and the money spent for the benefit of other parts of the empire. Representation in a Parliament where they were hopelessly outnumbered would only add the veneer of legitimacy to this armed theft.

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The rights to life and to keep and bear arms are inseparable

TAMPA, December 16, 2012 ― The right to keep and bear arms is not granted to Americans in the U.S. Constitution, nor in the “Bill of Rights.” The right to keep and bear arms is a natural right, inextricably linked to the right to life.

The 2nd Amendment recognizes this. It does not say that the right “shall be granted” to anyone. It assumes the right already exists and says it “shall not be infringed.”

All rights are negative. We do not have a positive right to anything. Rights merely prohibit other people from aggressing against us. If someone is struck by lightning and killed, we do not say that his right to life has been violated. Neither do we say so if he is eaten by a lion.

No, the right to life is very narrowly defined as the right not to be killed by another human being, other than in self-defense. Obviously, the only way to exercise this right is to defend oneself if attacked. There is no other circumstance in which the “right to life” has any meaning.

Given that an aggressor may have weapons or may simply be a more capable fighter, individuals must be able to arm themselves sufficiently to overcome these disadvantages. That is how they exercise their right to life.

These rights pre-exist government. They exist in what Enlightenment philosophers called “the state of nature,” which is the state without government. These thinkers had different ideas about nature and society, but all agreed on one thing. Self-preservation is the first law of nature.

John Locke’s “Essay Concerning the true origin, extent and end of Civil Government (1690)” inspired the entire American philosophy, according to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson thought it so important that posterity understand this that he had a resolution passed to proclaim it.

This was due to the important differences between Locke’s philosophy and others. Unlike Rousseau, who claimed that when joining society man had to agree to “the total alienation of all of his natural rights,” Locke said that man entered society to preserve those rights. That’s why the Declaration of Independence says that certain rights are inalienable.

The only rights that man gives up upon entering society is the right to judge his own case in a dispute and to enforce that judgment. These he gives up to the government in return for the superior protection of his life, liberty and property that the government supposedly provides.

However, these powers only pertain to crimes that occurred in the past. The government has no power over the future or the present. It cannot prosecute someone for a crime that he will commit tomorrow and it cannot protect the individual from a crime occurring right now.

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Tom Mullen interviewed on the Mike Church Post Show Show

Tom Mullen interviewed on the Mike Church Post Show Show to discuss the article ‘The Founding Fathers were Anti-War’

Enjoy!

The Founding Fathers Were Anti-War

The 2012 presidential election cycle is underway. With the Democratic candidate a foregone conclusion, there is not much uncertainty about where the Democratic Party is going. For better or worse, Democrats will likely continue to “dance with who brung them,” meaning Barack Obama and his brand of 21st century liberalism.

Not so on the Republican side. After historic defeats and victories in the past two elections, respectively, the Republican Party has yet to define itself for the future. It must come to grips with the fact that its miraculous comeback in 2010, after crushing defeats in the presidential and congressional elections of 2008, was due in large part to the Tea Party. However, with that victory came a large group of new Republican lawmakers, many of whom were not ready to fall in line with the Republican leadership. The most striking example, of course, is Rand Paul, who has constantly challenged mainstream Republican positions that do not jibe with his libertarian-leaning constitutional conservativsm.

Critics dismiss the Tea Party as simply a Republican Party publicity campaign rather than a grassroots movement that truly seeks change in Washington. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Tea Party did indeed challenge the Republican establishment and defeated many establishment Republicans in primary elections – which means they obviously cared about far more than simply defeating Democrats. So, if not simply a front group for the Republican mainstream, what does the Tea Party stand for?

If you ask them, they would answer that they stand for smaller, more fiscally responsible government and a return to America’s founding principles. They wish to reign in the federal government and restore the limits placed upon it by the U.S. Constitution. This is why you can find Sarah Palin touring 18th century historical landmarks and Michelle Bachmann evoking the shot heard round the world at Lexington and Concord (Concord, Massachussetts, that is, after clarifying her original statement).

It is easy to throw stones at the Tea Party for gaffs such as Bachmann’s. However, it is wrong to attribute the shortcomings of politicians trying to acquire political capital out of the Tea Party to the grassroots members themselves. Just because Michelle Bachmann might not know exactly where the American Revolution began doesn’ t mean that the Tea Partiers themselves don’t understand the American Revolution or the principles which inspired it. Indeed, the legislation that galvanized the Tea Party in 2010 – Obamacare – fundamentally violates those founding principles for exactly the reasons that the Tea Party opposes it.

Where the Tea Party departs from founding principles is on the subject of war and the military. At any Tea Party rally, a large percentage of the comments by the speakers, content of the signs and banners, and general atmosphere of the event amount to glorification of the military.  Over and over, attendees are reminded that they should be grateful to the military for their freedom and should remember that “someone paid for it.”  In addition to enthusiastic support for the gargantuan military establishment itself, unqualified support is given for every overseas war or occupation that the U.S. military is involved in. Whatever the president orders the military to do, it must not only be right but also essential to the freedom of every American.

This couldn’t be farther from the ideas of most of the founders. The Constitution reveals their suspicion of any permanent military establishment. The Congress is given the power to raise an army, but only for two years. This ensures that the people can disband the army during every Congressional election, as the House representatives are elected at the same intervals. The power to declare war is kept away from the president and given to Congress, where two separate bodies have to vote on it.

It is apparent from the document itself and the statements of many of its framers that they were very aware of the dangers to liberty that accompanied prolonged warfare or a standing army in peacetime. Contrary to what most Tea Partiers apparently believe, the founders were anti-war.

Remember that the colonists were reluctant to fight with the British right from the beginning. The colonial militia at Concord held their fire even after the British had fired upon them, killing two Americans. It was only when one of their commanding officers yelled “Fire, for God’s sake, fellow soldiers, fire!” that they fired upon the British. Three months later they sent the Olive Branch Petition to King George in an attempt to avoid all-out war.

Once the Constitution was ratified, the administrations of the first three U.S. presidents were dominated by efforts to avoid going to war. During Washington’s administration, pro-France Jeffersonians urged the president to take France’s side in its conflict with England. Instead, Washington approved the Jay Treaty, which normalized trade relations with Great Britain.

Largely because of this treaty, John Adams spent most of his presidency dealing with a hostile France, which considered the new American nation extremely ungrateful after France’s support of it during its revolution. Avoiding war with France was the dominant issue of Adams’ presidency, this time under pressure from his own party to take Great Britain’s side. In fact, while Adams maintained a commitment to enlarge the navy to provide “wooden walls” for the young nation, he steadfastly refused to grant Hamilton the standing army he wanted, despite the fact that Adams was fighting the “Quasi War” with France. Adams eventually achieved peace, possibly at the cost of a second term as president due to the dissention it caused within the Federalist Party.  However, Adams considered peace the crowning achievement of his presidency, saying “I desire no other inscription over my gravestone than: ‘Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of peace with France in the year 1800.”[i]

Not to be outdone, Thomas Jefferson went even further in repudiating militarism. Having no standing army to disband, Jefferson went to work on the U.S. navy, decreasing it by roughly 95%. This allowed him to eliminate virtually all internal taxation in the republic, leaving only the tariffs to provide federal revenue. Jefferson refused to use ground troops in his clashes with the Barbary pirates until the Pasha of Tripoli actually declared war upon the United States. Later, in yet another effort to stay out of the wars in Europe, Jefferson signed into law the Embargo Act. While he was rightly denounced for this legislation, which was almost as hostile to liberty as the Alien and Sedition Acts, it did demonstrate the lengths to which Jefferson was willing to go to keep his country out of war.

It is Jefferson who is most quoted in Tea Party signs and by Tea Party candidates, and rightly so. If one is consulting the founders for the purest version of the American philosophy of liberty, it can be found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson. However, Jefferson was also the most staunchly anti-war, cutting all military spending not absolutely necessary to defend the American borders. This was no accident. War is the natural destroyer of liberty. As James Madison put it:

“Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”[ii]

If the Tea Party truly wishes to reestablish America’s founding principles, then part of their platform should be to disband the U.S. Army. They would be in good company. Founding fathers from both major political parties in the 18th and early 19th centuries opposed a standing army, most adamantly Tea Party icon Thomas Jefferson. Only Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson’s political arch enemy, differed from the rest on this point. Hamilton’s militarism was part and parcel of his imperial political philosophy, which also included a controlled economy, a central bank, and a national debt that would further tie corporations to the government – all policies that the Tea Party rejects.

While embracing militarism and championing liberty are philosophically inconsistent, there is also a very practical reason to disband the army. It has outlived its usefulness. With the U.S. government’s nuclear arsenal and dominant naval and air forces, there is no conceivable reason that an army of ground troops is necessary to protect the United States. Think for a moment how hard it has been for the U.S. to conquer a few backwaters in the Middle East. Now imagine a foreign army trying to land in Maryland or Georgia, against all of that air, sea, and missile power. It is inconceivable. Furthermore, even the government’s own military “experts” for the most part admit that a conventional army is ineffective in fighting terrorism. Given these realities, the vast federal spending, deficits, and debt –core issues for the Tea Party – that result from the existence of a standing army cannot be justified in the 21st century United States.

The Tea Party broke almost four decades of relative apathy by American citizens in the face of unchecked expansion of federal government power. Not since the Viet Nam war had Americans taken to the streets as they did during the 2010 elections. During the 1960′s and 70′s, the left wing-dominated anti-war movement brought with it socialist domestic policies that were as hostile to liberty as the war itself. Now, the right wing-dominated Tea Party embraces a foreign policy as anti-liberty as the domestic policies that it opposes. It is past time for a movement that promotes liberty and opposes leviathan government consistently on all fronts. Embrace America’s founding principles. Restore the republic. Disband the army.


[i] McCullough, David John Adams Simon & Schuster Paperbacks 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 2001 pg. 567

[ii] Madison, James Political Observations 1795 from Letters and Other Writings of James Madison J.P. Lippincott & Co. Philadelphia, PA 1865 Vol. IV pgs. 491-492

Release the Kraken

I prefer the 1981 film version of Clash of the Titans for many reasons. Among them is its nuanced portrayal of Zeus’ decision to release the Kraken upon the city of Joppa. He clearly does this reluctantly due to the immense power and possible unforeseen consequences of letting loose this uncontrollable force. When Poseidon opens the undersea gate and watches the creature emerge, he is clearly awestruck by the size and destructive potential of the beast. One can imagine what question must have been preeminent on his mind. “How am I going to get this thing back into the cage?”

There is no better metaphor for the United States and its government since the turn of the 20th century. It was at that time that government was released from its chains – and it has been on a rampage ever since.
In his seminal book, The New Freedom, Woodrow Wilson wrote,

“We used to say that the ideal of government was for every man to be left alone and not interfered with, except when he interfered with somebody else; and that the best government was the government that did as little governing as possible. That was the idea that obtained in Jefferson’s time. But we are coming now to realize that life is so complicated that we are not dealing with the old conditions, and that the law has to step in and create new conditions under which we may live, the conditions which will make it tolerable for us to live.”

While Wilson’s unqualified dismissal of America’s founding principle of government might startle 21st century readers, the reasoning he employs to justify it is even more incredible. Just a few pages after declaring that Jefferson’s system is no longer viable, he goes on to say that the Americans of his time are actually living under Alexander Hamilton’s system. He is to a great extent correct on this. By 1912, the Republican Party, philosophical descendants of Hamilton’s Federalists, had indeed made great strides in establishing the Hamilton platform of corporate welfare, protectionism, and a large and adventurous military establishment.

However, this system was completely antithetical to Jefferson’s truly free market, whereby the government merely enforced contracts and protected individuals from aggression against their rights. Here, Wilson has made a colossal non sequitur – that Jefferson’s system should be scrapped because Hamilton’s system isn’t working. The confusion – between crony capitalism and truly free markets – persists to this day.

Thus, we have not only released the Kraken, but we have done so for completely illogical reasons. It has been rampaging over our lives, liberties, and properties now for over a century and shows no signs of tiring. It is time to either get it back in its cage or find a man on a flying horse to save us.

What is Limited Government?

It is certainly encouraging to see a massive grassroots movement demanding that government cease its exponential growth. The Tea Party movement has already flexed its muscles in some high-profile elections, and there is widespread consensus that it will be a factor in the 2010 elections. For the first time in over a century, there is a critical mass of people actually demanding limited government.

However, there is one very important question that must be answered. What is limited government?

The answer supplied by Republicans for the past several decades has been “lower taxes, balanced budgets, and less government spending.” These are all wonderful ideas, although Republicans have hardly put them into practice when given the reins of power. Afterwards, their supporters have chastised them for “not being true conservatives,” although I’m not sure that the conservative movement has ever really been about “small government.” In any case, the fundamental assumption underlying conservative rhetoric is that the limits of government are quantitative. One is led to believe that if the government would only spend less on health care, education, stimulus packages, and other programs (excluding the military, of course), that freedom, peace, and prosperity would be just around the corner.

However, limited government has nothing to do with how much money government spends, but rather what government is allowed to spend money on. Restoring freedom and constitutional government depends not just upon cutting taxes, but redefining what services government can legitimately tax its citizens to underwrite. At one time in America, there was a clear and unambiguous answer to that question: taxation was limited to underwriting the defense of life, liberty, and property.

Politicians have to mince words in order to keep fragile constituencies together, so they rarely make unambiguous statements. When one faction among their supporters opposes a new government health care program, they cannot agree on principle and say that government should have no role in providing health care. This would alienate another faction among their supporters that are currently benefitting from an already well-established government health care program. So, the politician uses words like “sensible” and “market-driven” in order to attack his opponent’s program without acknowledging the principle that it violates whether administered “sensibly” or not.

Truly limited government can only mean one thing: enforcing the non-aggression principle, known to our founders as “the law of nature.” Jefferson said that no man has the right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and that is all from which the law ought to restrain him. As government is merely the societal use of force, its limits are no different than the limits on the use of force by an individual. An individual may use force only in defense against aggression and under no other circumstances. He may never initiate force. The words “sensible,” “lower,” and “smaller” do not apply. The limits on government are absolute.

The argument that needs to be made against the current health care program is that it violates the law of nature. By forcing some people to pay for health care services that are provided to others and by forcing everyone to purchase health insurance regardless of their consent, government exceeds the natural limits of its power. It initiates force and thereby commits aggression against every individual in society. The initiation of aggression results in the state of war. It is for this reason that the new health care program should be repealed. Once the argument is diverted to one simply about cost or the practical means to fund the program, the principle of limited government has been abandoned.

While this is a relatively simple answer, as are all answers to questions of justice, it is a double-edged sword for conservatives. Once the true limits of government power are acknowledged, then a large swath of the conservative platform is called into question. Most obviously, garnering support from older Americans in opposing “Obamacare” on the grounds that it will necessitate cuts in Medicare contradicts the principle of limited government. The flimsy distinction between the new health care program and the old has been that Medicare recipients have “paid into the system all of their lives.” While this is undoubtedly true, everyone knows that those payments all went to underwrite previous beneficiaries and not into some magical trust fund. Medicare is no less a redistribution program than Obamacare. It just benefits a different special interest group.

While support for Medicare may merely be a political necessity for conservative politicians, truly limited government is also at odds with what has become the bedrock of modern conservatism: support for the worldwide U.S. military establishment. This is not to say that limited government means no military establishment at all. However, it does mean that the government has no legitimate authority to maintain standing armies overseas, to fight wars to protect one nation from another, or to protect a foreign people from a despotic government. The natural limit of government military action is to defend its own citizens against aggression by a foreign nation. Beyond this, it is initiating force and exceeding that natural limit.

One might argue that every individual has a right and a duty to protect a fellow human being from aggression by a third party, and that therefore the U.S. government’s military interventions around the world are justified. This was the basis for the (second) argument for the Iraq war. Saddam Hussein was oppressing his people and the United States had a duty to protect them from him. However, no individual has a right to force someone else to defend a third party against aggression. Every American had the right to send money to support Hussein’s opponents or even to go and fight in a revolution to overthrow him. However, no American had the right to force his neighbor to do so. The natural limit on military spending is that which is necessary to protect those taxed to support it. Humanitarian aid in any form must be voluntary.

Liberals constantly use the term “fair share” when justifying the egregious taxation and redistribution system that the U.S. government has become. Of course, this begs the question, “What is my fair share of services that I don’t use and that I actively oppose?” The only rational answer to this question is “zero.” However, once you come to this inescapable conclusion, virtually all government social and economic programs must be eliminated, as they are all based upon taxing one person in order to provide benefits to another.

Limited government does require each individual to pay his fair share, which is the cost to protect his own life, liberty, and property and that of his dependents. It is limited to what is necessary to “secure these rights.” While everyone may not have an equal amount of property, everyone has equal rights and thus an equal stake in providing for their defense. An examination of the U.S. government’s budget reveals that the cost of providing this defense of individual rights is orders of magnitude less than what is spent now. A government operating within its natural limits would not require an income tax, a value added tax, or a “fair tax.” American history has already proven this.

While it may be justified in a theoretical sense, America’s massive redistribution state cannot be abolished with the stroke of a pen. Not even the staunchest libertarian really wants to see Social Security, Medicare, or public welfare turned off tomorrow, with the poor and elderly left to fend for themselves. However, to be committed to limited government means to be committed to working towards eliminating these programs, not reforming them. This may take generations to accomplish, but we must first at least acknowledge that they have to go.

What we can do right now is end our worldwide military empire. Unlike the social programs, this would not mean short-term hardship in exchange for long-term gain. Getting our soldiers out of the 130 countries that they are stationed in would provide an immediate benefit both to the United States and the rest of the world. Proponents of the empire would argue that a sudden withdrawal of our troops would “destabilize” the regions that they are stationed in, but this is absurd. The presence of troops does not provide stability. It inspires resentment and provokes the inhabitants to retaliate. Without a troop presence in the Middle East, the motivation for terrorism would quickly fade. It is much easier to recruit suicide bombers when you can show your recruits armed troops in their own neighborhood than it is trying to convince them to give their lives to stop women in some far off land from wearing mini-skirts. Does anyone really believe that this is why they want to kill us?

A little simple arithmetic will demonstrate that even eliminating all military spending would not allow us to pay for our welfare state. The total military budget is around $700 billion, while Social Security and Medicare alone are over $1 trillion, with Medicaid adding $400 billion more. This does not even take into consideration all of the smaller programs for housing, education, medical research, “infrastructure,” energy, agriculture – all of these programs violate the principle of limited government for the same reason that Obamacare does. Added together, the vast majority of non-military federal spending is some type of wealth redistribution. It would seem that there is no equitable way out.

The answer lies in revisiting the “fair share” idea. Unlike taxation, there is no such thing as a fair share of benefits derived from other people’s money. We must recognize that in order to undo the century of damage we have done to our society, some people are going to have to pay out more than they receive in benefits. We could certainly come up with a plan whereby people my age, in their mid-40’s, would only be guaranteed catastrophic coverage through Medicare and reduced payments from Social Security, both payable only with a demonstrated need rather than as an entitlement. This would allow new workers to get out of the system altogether and finally restore limited government and true social justice. Would it be fair? No. Neither is the status quo. However, it would lead to prosperity and justice for our children. The status quo will lead us to our destruction.

This is only one strategy and I am sure that smart people could come up with others. As the old saying goes, the first step in solving our problem is admitting that we have one. If we want limited government, we must recognize that it is far more than Obamacare or welfare for the poor that is violating the law of nature. Let us continue to oppose Obamacare, but let us also acknowledge the vast amount of work to do even after this new incursion into our liberty is vanquished.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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The U.S. Constitution: The 18th Century Patriot Act

At some point in the past, the American ethos was centered on suspicion of government –whether liberal, conservative, or otherwise. For most of America’s first two centuries, Americans were taxed less, regulated less, and left more alone by their government than any other people in the world. These conditions resulted in an explosion of innovation, wealth, and culture unsurpassed at any time in human history.

As that trend seems to have reversed, Americans look to their past to try to establish where we have gone wrong and what we can do to solve our problems. Increasingly, some Americans point to the U.S. Constitution and our abandonment of its “limits on government” as the reason for our downfall. It is generally argued by “strict constitutionalists” that the purpose of the U.S. Constitution was to limit the power of the government. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Don’t get me wrong. If our government were limited to the powers granted it in that document, the United States of America would be far freer, far more prosperous, and likely not facing any of the monumental problems that it is facing now. However, that does not change the facts about why the Constitutional Convention was called or why the Constitution itself was created. If you are astounded that any Republican can still claim that George Bush was “pro-freedom” or that any Democrat can claim that Barack Obama is “anti-war,” you should be equally surprised that anyone can claim that the U.S. Constitution limited the powers of the central government.

Remember that there was already a federal government of the United States prior to the U.S. Constitution. It was defined in a document called the Articles of Confederation and had been in existence since 1778. Under the Articles, the young nation had defeated the mightiest military empire in human history to win its independence. Acknowledging the true meaning of the words “federation” and “federal,” the document defined the relationship between the states as “a firm league of friendship with each other.” There was no implication that the United States was one nation and the several states merely subdivisions within it. There was no president to usurp power. There was no Supreme Court to legally sanction tyranny. There was no IRS. While the federal government would pay for any war fought by the federation out of a common treasury, the Articles left the actual act of taxation to the States.

“The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.”[1]

Compared to the overtaxed, overregulated society that is America today, the America of the 19th century was one of astounding liberty and prosperity. However, even America after 1787 had much more government than America in its first decade. We are taught that this was a grave problem and that the Constitution was necessary to avoid imminent destruction from any number of horrors, including invasion by a foreign power, civil war, or economic upheaval as a result of protectionism by the states. We accept these assertions as facts because of the reverence we hold for the founders of our country. However, how different was the atmosphere surrounding the Constitutional Convention from that surrounding the Patriot Act, the TARP bailout, or the current efforts to expand government power in the name of environmentalism? Despite the pure heresy of the idea, there was really no difference at all.

By 1787, there were two dominant parties in America. Unlike the two dominant parties today, the Federalists and what would later become the Democratic-Republicans of that time really were diametrically opposed on fundamental issues. Led by Alexander Hamilton, the Federalists sought a much more powerful central government with a central bank, a standing army, and an alliance with big business that would control the economy. In opposition to them were Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and their followers that believed that the central government’s powers should be limited, and that power should be concentrated locally (and mistrusted generally). They opposed a central bank and a standing army and supported a truly free market.

It was not Thomas Jefferson or Patrick Henry that led the effort to call the Constitutional Convention, which neither even attended. It was Hamilton and his Federalists that wanted it. As superbly documented in his book, Hamilton’s Curse, Thomas Dilorenzo reminds us that Hamilton actually wanted even more power for the central government than he eventually got into the Constitution.

“At the convention, Hamilton proposed a permanent president and senate, with all political power in the national government, as far away as possible from the people, and centered in the executive. He also wanted “all laws of the particular states, contrary to the constitution or the laws of the United States [government], to be utterly void,” and he proposed that “the governor…of each state shall be appointed by the general government, and shall have a negative [i.e., a veto] upon the laws about to be passed in the state of which he is governor.”[2]

Hamilton did not succeed in getting all of the power he wanted for the central government, but he succeeded in increasing that power quite a bit. This too should seem familiar. At every point in American history that interested parties have tried to expand the power of government, they have attempted at expansive powers and settled for something less than they sought but more than they previously had. With each “compromise,” Americans have lost a little more of their liberty.

When viewed objectively, the very words of the Constitution reveal its true purpose. Constitutionalists often cite Article I Section 8 as proof of the limits on the powers granted to the federal government, but let’s not forget what that section actually says. It begins,

“The Congress shall have the power to…”

What follows is a long list of powers that the central government did not previously have. Each subsequent section of the Constitution invests power in the one of the three branches of government. Nowhere in the document are these powers limited, except for the short (but nevertheless important) list of exceptions contained in Section 9.

Of course, supporters of the Constitution would point out that the first ten amendments to the Constitution are actually a list of specific limits on government. Indeed they are. However, most people miss the point of those precious amendments. They represent the compromise, the attempt to limit the damage that was already done by the original document. Although several states tried to hold out for a bill of rights before ratifying the Constitution, those ten amendments weren’t actually ratified until 1791 – two years after the Constitution was ratified. They do not change the intent or nature of the Constitution itself – the massive expansion of the power of the central government.

Like the Patriot Act, the TARP bill, and the coming Climate Treaty, The U.S Constitution was conceived and drafted in an atmosphere of panic that was created by proponents of big government for the express purpose of using fear to win support for a massive expansion of government power. Also like TARP or the Patriot Act, it was debated in secret by a convention of delegates that were told that unspeakable horrors awaited America if they did not pass it immediately. Like most expansions of government power, its proponents did not get everything that they hoped for, but they got a lot more power than they had. Most importantly, the next debate over the size and scope of government started from there. The seeds of America’s multi-trillion dollar welfare-warfare state really lie in this seminal expansion of government power.

The U.S. Constitution does not embody the American spirit. It is a document that grants power to government. The document that truly embodies the American spirit is the Declaration of Independence, which was written expressly to remove all power from the existing government. If Americans are truly interested in reclaiming their liberty, they should look to this revolutionary document as the source of their inspiration. After such a long train of abuses, it is past time that we instituted new guards for our future security.

[1]  Article VIII, Articles of Confederation

[2] Dilorenzo, Thomas Hamilton’s Curse Crown Publishing Group (Random House) New York, NY 2008 Pg. 16