September 19, 2018

Why are American citizens financially responsible to defend Syrians?

Tax DayTAMPA, September 1, 2013 — One day after President Obama indicated he would seek a vote from Congress on whether to launch missile strikes against Syria, media outlets have already begun reporting on the debate from a number of perspectives. As usual, one perspective is completely ignored: that of the American taxpayer.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to tax U.S. citizens to provide for the common defense of U.S. citizens, not every soul on the planet. The only exception is for citizens in countries with whom the United States has signed a mutual defense treaty. In those situations, it is assumed that American taxpayers get a reasonably equal benefit back in defense provided to them.

The founders still told us to avoid those alliances whenever possible.

Regardless, the United States has no treaty with Syria. If it did, it would be with the Assad government, not with rebels attempting to overthrow it. Syria has not attacked the United States nor issued a declaration of war against them. There isn’t even a U.N. Security Council resolution for force against Syria, which strict constitutionalists don’t recognize as legitimate anyway.

President Obama is arguing for the United States to intervene militarily solely for “humanitarian” reasons. That begs the question:

How did American taxpayers become financially responsible for protecting Syrian rebels and civilians?

Every other U.S. president has recognized that Americans can only be taxed to pay for their own defense or the defense of allies by treaty. The arguments haven’t always been bulletproof, but at least they have acknowledged this principle.

President George W. Bush made his case for the Iraq War based upon Saddam Hussein’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction.” At one point, the administration went so far as to say that Hussein could strike the United States “within 45 minutes.”

Why did the administration go to such lengths to exaggerate Iraq’s capabilities? Because it recognized that only an imminent threat to American citizens would justify a war against Iraq.

“Operation Deliberate Force” in Serbia was recognized as a NATO operation, meaning the United States participated due to a supposed treaty obligation. President Clinton’s attempts to conduct military operations in Africa and Haiti for humanitarian reasons were met with public and congressional opposition. Both interventions were aborted prior to prolonged involvement.

In Korea and Viet Nam, Americans were told war was necessary to prevent “the domino effect,” where one Asian nation after another would fall to communism, which then would spread to the rest of the world. The theory was proven wrong when North Viet Nam took over South Viet Nam and communism still failed. Still, the stated reason for war was to protect Americans from communist aggression.

President Obama has broken new ground. He has argued that not only does the U.S. government have the authority to tax Americans to defend every human being on the planet, but that the president can order military intervention for that reason on his authority alone.

Unfortunately, this has led many to believe that his decision to wait until Congress debates the intervention is some sort of victory for constitutional government.

It’s not. Nowhere in the Constitution is it stated or implied that American taxpayers are financially responsible for the common defense of the whole world.

Military operations are not funded by donations. Taxpayers are compelled to pay them by force. That’s why the Constitution sets limits to what Americans can be taxed for: “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”

As widely as that clause has been interpreted, no one could possibly interpret it to mean defense of Syrian civilians under present circumstances, nor for the citizens of non-treaty partners in any other country.

If the constitution imposes no such financial obligation on American taxpayers, then what does? When and how did American taxpayers consent to it? By what authority is it enforced? When and how will this financial obligation end?

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

Libertarian themes pervade The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Tampa 8 December 2012 – “And it came to pass that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, everyone to his own city, for to disobey the Roman emperor meant certain death.”

The message in the opening lines of The Little Drummer Boy (1968) is as rich and pleasing to the ear as Greer Garson’s euphonious narration.

First, that Bethlehem was so crowded and there was “no room at the inn” for Joseph and Mary was not at all a natural occurrence. It was caused by the government, like virtually all human misery. Second, that all taxation occurs under the threat of violence, for to refuse to pay would result in “certain death.”

This is all within the first 30 seconds of the film. A libertarian couldn’t ask for a better start.

Taxation is repeatedly denounced throughout the story. Garson continues by noting that, “There were good people who could ill afford the cruel tax.” Even the film’s chief villain, Ben Haramad (voice by Jose Ferrer), who kidnaps Aaron in order to compel him to perform in his traveling show, addresses his audience as “fellow taxpayers,” indicating that as bad as he might be, he is one with his audience in suffering under a much more cruel and malicious oppressor.

I couldn’t have been happier that my seven-year-old daughter was exposed to all of this, along with a very age appropriate introduction to the gospel stories. With the central lesson of Thanksgiving – that communism is lethal and private property essential to human survival – effectively erased from popular consciousness, it was refreshing to see these foundational libertarian ideas surviving in a classic Christmas special.

Next, we queued up another oldie from the same DVD compilationSanta Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970). This one didn’t disappoint, either.  Again, the general misery within the aptly named “Sombertown” has the same source: government. One cannot help but see the parallels between Burgermeister Meisterburger’s idiotic law against toys and the U.S. government’s War on Drugs. All of the familiar characteristics are there.

First, the law is completely ineffective in stopping the children of Sombertown from playing with toys, aided by a young, energetic Kris Kringle. When the government confiscates the toys, Kringle brings more. When the government starts searching houses, Kringle hides the toys in stockings hanging by the fire.

Of course, each government failure to prevent human beings from engaging in activity that is harmless to others results in ever more oppressive measures. As they do in the “land of the free” today, the government finally resorts to “no knock raids,” with armed men breaking down the doors of innocent and guilty alike. Parents and children huddle together in fear.

Meisterberger demonstrates government hypocrisy when he breaks his own law by playing with a yo-yo given to him by Kringle. What an effective analogy for the government’s own involvement in drug trafficking, both by street cops “gone bad” and by the CIA in its vast covert operations.

Meisterburger further emulates the U.S. government with ridiculous overreach in enforcing his unjust law, arresting not only Kris Kringle, but his whole family, his future wife Jessica and even the reformed Winter Warlock. All are charged with “conspiracy,” a tactic utilized by the government to circumvent the rules of evidence in court and put over 2 million people in prison.

The story also features a useful idiot in Jessica, who at first blindly supports the law, until Kringle gives her a china doll. Realizing how harmless to others her own enjoyment of the doll is, she finally begins to question the wisdom of prohibition.

Kringle escapes the dungeon with the help of the Winter Warlock’s flying reindeer and remains an outlaw for many years afterwards. However, the story ends happily as the libertarians outlast the oppressive Meisterbergers, who eventually “died off and fell out of power.” As narrator Fred Astaire relates,

“By and by, the good people realized how silly the Meisterberger laws were. Well, everybody had a wonderful laugh and then forgot all about them.”

If only the good people of the United States would attain similar wisdom.

Within this pleasant little Christmas story, youngsters couldn’t be taught a more radical libertarian lesson.  The government is evil. Its edicts are often unjust and result in needless misery. The hero of the story is an outlaw who practices civil disobedience to bring a little happiness to his fellow man. Regardless of your feelings on drug prohibition, there are a thousand other parallels to real world government oppression.

Conservatives often complain that modern Christmas specials have scrubbed Jesus Christ out of the holiday, turning it into a secular celebration of gift giving and merrymaking. That’s not hard to understand coming out of “progressive” modern Hollywood, whose animosity towards Christianity rivals its animosity towards free enterprise. It also explains why these wonderfully libertarian themes have disappeared from today’s politically correct holiday fluff.

Whatever your religious beliefs, even if you have none at all, you can’t go wrong watching these classic Christmas specials with your children. Not only will they learn the true meaning of Christmas, but they will be exposed at a young age to the founding American principle that government is evil.

God bless us, everyone.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The Constitution Does Not Protect Our Property

>The U.S. Constitution is widely believed to have been written to limit the powers of the federal government and protect the rights of its citizens. Inexplicably, this belief is held even by those who acknowledge that the constitutional convention was called for the express purpose of expanding the powers of the federal government, supposedly because the government under the Articles of Confederation was too weak. That this was the purpose of the convention is not a disputed fact. Nevertheless, most people who care at all about the Constitution continue to believe and promote the “Constitution as protector of rights” myth.

To the extent that the Constitution enumerates certain powers for the federal government, with all other powers assumed to be excluded, it does set some limits on government. When one includes the first ten amendments of the Constitution, it also protects certain rights. Indeed, the ninth amendment makes the very important point that the specific protections of certain rights does not in any way deny the existence of others, while the tenth amendment makes explicit the implied limitation to enumerated powers in the Constitution itself. At first glance, the so-called “Bill of Rights” seems to confine government power within an airtight bottle, rendering it incapable of becoming a violator of rights instead of protector of them.

However, this theory does not hold up well under closer examination. To begin with, the Constitution itself does not protect a single right other than habeas corpus, and that comes with a built-in exception. What the Constitution does do is grant powers, and not just to a representative body, as the Articles of Confederation did, but to three separate branches. That leaves it up to the Bill of Rights to serve the purpose of protecting our rights. Generally, those ten amendments protect our rights under extraordinary circumstances, but not under ordinary circumstances. More specifically, the Bill of Rights provides protections for the individual during situations of direct conflict with the federal government, such as when one is accused or convicted of a crime, when one is sued, on the occasion of troops being stationed in residential areas, or when one speaks out against the government or petitions it for redress of grievances.

Make no mistake, these protections are vital and have provided protections for the people against government abuse of power many times in U.S. history. However, they have proven ineffective against the slow, deliberate growth of government power under ordinary circumstances, when the specific conditions described in those amendments do not exist. This is primarily due to the absence of protection, either in the Constitution or in any subsequent amendment, of the most important right of all: property.

By “property,” I do not mean exclusively or even primarily land ownership, although land ownership is one form of property. By “property,” I mean all that an individual rightfully owns, including his mind, body, labor, and the fruits of his labor. It is specifically the right to the fruits of one’s labor that the Constitution fails entirely to protect. In fact, it makes no attempt to do so whatsoever.

In the Constitution itself, the word “property” appears only once, and that is in reference to property owned by the federal government (an inauspicious start). Nowhere does it make any mention of property owned by the citizens.

The document does grant the federal government the power to tax “to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and the general welfare of the United States.” This is a strikingly unlimited scope for which the federal government may tax its citizens. Arguments that taxes may only be collected to underwrite the subsequently enumerated powers have been struck down. Sadly, those decisions have probably been correct. While the power of the Congress to pass laws is explicitly limited to those “necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers,” no such language binds the power to tax. The fact that the explicit limitation exists for lawmaking (which Congress ignores anyway) but not for taxation lends further weight to the argument that the Constitution grants Congress unlimited power to tax its citizens.

One can certainly make the argument that in 1789, the term “general welfare” would have been interpreted much differently than it is today. Indeed, one might assume that the term “general welfare” meant the general protection of each individual’s rights. Perhaps that is what many of the founders believed at the convention. However, it is clear that Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists, the driving force behind calling the convention, had far different ideas about what the term “general welfare” meant. Remember that for Hamilton, the purpose of government was not the protection of rights, but the realization of “national greatness.” This could only be achieved at the expense of individual rights, primarily property rights.

So, the Constitution itself grants Congress unlimited power to tax and does not even mention, much less protect, the individual right to keep the fruits of one’s labor. Certainly the Bill of Rights addresses this deficiency, doesn’t it?

It does not. Like the Constitution itself, the Bill of Rights is virtually silent on the central right of property. Out of all ten amendments, the word “property” appears in only one of them:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Unlike the congressional power to tax granted in the Constitution, the constitutional protections codified in the Fifth Amendment are severely limited to specific, extraordinary circumstances. The entire Fifth Amendment is set in the context of criminal law, granting certain protections to the accused and/or convicted. The phrase “due process of law” is a specific legal term that refers to those accused of a crime being given notice of the charges, opportunity to face their accusers, call witnesses in their defense, etc. This was obviously the intent of this protection of property, rather than a general protection of property rights against taxation.

Even if one discards the clear intention of this clause of the Fifth Amendment and interprets “due process of law” more broadly, the amendment offers no more protection of property than if one interprets the clause narrowly. Since the power to tax is an enumerated power, Congress would be following due process of law simply by levying the tax in the first place.

The last clause of the Fifth Amendment, regarding property taken “for public use,” is similarly limited to extraordinary circumstances. This clause undoubtedly refers to eminent domain, which is a grievous abuse of property rights, but certainly not one that affects a large percentage of the population. Even here, no right is protected. The clause merely requires the government to give the victim “just compensation.” There is no mention of the primary component of the right of property, consent.

Furthermore, there is no mention of how “just compensation” is to be determined, although history has shown that the government itself determines what compensation is just arbitrarily. In a free society, the value of property is determined by the price at which the owner is willing to exchange it. However, since there is no requirement here of the owner’s consent, no such price determination can occur.

As for the remaining protections of property in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, there are none. These two phrases, protecting property under only the most extraordinary circumstances are the length and breadth of the Constitution’s involvement with this most fundamental right. It is this deficiency that has allowed the federal government to grow into the monster that it is, concerned with virtually nothing but the redistribution of wealth.

If you believe the official myth about the Constitution, this might seem shocking. After all, the document was drafted by the same people that had seceded from their nation and fought a long and bloody war primarily to defend their right to keep the fruits of their labor. How could they draft a document to recreate their government, which they said only existed to secure their rights, and not only fail to secure the most important right, but actually empower their government to violate it with impunity? Certainly this was history’s most colossal error.

However, when you consider the political platform of the Federalists, which included corporate welfare, monetary inflation, deficit spending, government debt, and militarism, all designed to maintain the wealth and power of a privileged elite at the expense of the rest of the citizenry, the unlimited power to tax and lack of protection of property seem less like error and more like deliberate intention.

Whenever the subject of “constitutional rights” (a problematic term itself) comes up, people reflexively refer to the right of free speech. This is an important right, and one defended across the political spectrum. However, free speech, freedom of the press, and the other rights protected by the Bill of Rights, without property rights, are inconsequential – the mere window dressing of liberty. It is property that enables one to determine the course of one’s own life. Without it, the right to life is no right at all, but rather a privilege granted by those who own your labor.

George W. Bush was an enthusiastic supporter of the right of “free speech.” During a town hall meeting, an average American who opposed Bush’s policies rose and began hurling insults at the president, eliciting boos from the Bush-friendly audience. Bush reprimanded the crowd, reminding them that this man had a right to speak his mind, even if they did not like what he had to say. It was not the only time that he stood up for free speech. This was no accident. A government that has the unlimited power to seize the property of its citizens can afford to be magnanimous when it comes to free speech. Yet, for the citizen who no longer owns the fruits of his own labor, the right to complain makes him no less a slave.

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The True State of the Union: We Have No Rights Whatsoever

2010_State_of_the_UnionIt has been almost a week since President Obama gave his first State of the Union address, and it has been analyzed from the left, right, center, front, and back. Of course, the speech is really about the performance of the federal government, particularly its wonderful accomplishments under the leadership of the sitting president. This is not peculiar to the Obama presidency. As far back as Jefferson, presidents have used the Constitutionally-mandated stump speech to do a little self-promotion, although what they promote has certainly changed quite dramatically.

However, if the speech is supposed to reflect the accomplishments of the federal government, then we should expect that it will contain specifics about how that government has fulfilled its purpose, which is, as we all know, to secure our rights. At least that’s what our founding document tells us. Therefore, if a president is going to do a little bragging about what a great job he has done, it would be logical to assume that we would hear particulars about the way in which he has secured our rights. Logic, however, has little to do with the machinations of leviathan.

In fairness, President Obama did begin his speech with a few remarks about the actual state of our country – a state of economic devastation and unending war. The fact that both of these afflictions have been caused wholly by our federal government is something that seems to have gone right by him, although he is not unique in that respect, either. Having reminded us about how bad things are, he dutifully lays as much blame as possible on the president that preceded him (another time-honored tradition when succeeding a president of the opposing party). He then moves right into trumpeting his accomplishments.

The president explains how he hit the ground running after taking over during the financial crisis, which began during the last year of the Bush administration. He takes pride in the fact that he supported the bank bailouts over the wishes of the American people, because when he ran for president, he “promised he wouldn’t just do what was popular,” he would do “what was necessary.” I don’t remember that particular campaign promise, although I do remember him promising to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” or something to that effect. I suppose you can’t expect him to keep them all.

President Obama justifies his first initiative as president as follows:

“And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.”

Perhaps the president is correct on this. Perhaps he is not. However, there is one consideration that seems wholly missing from his thought process. Do the people whose money was taken to “stabilize the financial system” have any rights? By what authority was their money confiscated, even if it were for “the good of all?” Majority vote?

The president next goes on to extol the virtues of the first policy that was wholly his own. He says that his administration “extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts… As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.”

This seems to be a mixed message. The part about extending unemployment benefits and making health insurance cheaper seems like more wealth redistribution. However, he also mentions tax cuts that saved jobs and let people keep more of their own money. One might have been led to believe that he actually secured the right to property here, at least for some of his constituents. Then came the punch line.

“The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. That’s right -– the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill. Economists on the left and the right say this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don’t have to take their word for it. Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act. Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created. Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn’t be laid off after all.”

It is ironic that one of the examples that the president cites is a window manufacturer. Those few lucid economists who are not among those “on the left and the right” who agree wholeheartedly with the stimulus bill certainly would have been unable to avoid recalling Frederic Bastiat’s “broken window fallacy.” It is the absurd reasoning that Bastiat exposes in his famous essay, “What is Seen and What is Not Seen,” that underlies the entire “stimulus” strategy. Occasionally, this has been pointed out in public debates over these programs. However, there is one question that has not even been asked by President Obama’s most vitriolic Republican opponents. Do the people who were forced to fund the Recovery Act have rights?

President Obama implies that his wonderful largesse was accomplished without taxing anyone, but this is absurd. It may be true that he has not had a tax increase passed in the Congress, but the funding for the Recovery Act can only come from one place. For the portion that was borrowed by the U.S. government from other nations, that money will eventually have to be paid back. The government only has one official source of revenue – taxation. The fact that those who will pay the taxes to underwrite the Recovery Act may not be born yet (although I don’t personally believe that Washington has that much time left) doesn’t change the fact that they will be forced to pay it back.

There is also an “unofficial” source of revenue for the government, and that is inflation. For the portion of the Recovery Act debt that the Federal Reserve merely monetizes, it is no less taxation than is an appropriation from the Treasury. It is merely a more insidious form of taxation, one that does not look its victim in the eye, but rather steals from him silently through depreciation of a currency that he is forced to use by the government. Whether by official or unofficial means, there are individuals whose money will be confiscated by the government so that others may keep their jobs. Again, I ask, do those individuals have rights?

It should not go without mention exactly who these people are whose jobs have been saved by the Recovery Act. According to the president, “there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders. And we’re on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.”

Is there anyone among these two million that are not government employees? Perhaps the construction workers, although I’d bet they are working solely on government contracts. In any case, they are all on the receiving end of the taxation, necessitating that others must be taken from in order for them to receive.

The whole concept of the government “saving or creating jobs” is one whose injustice seems to elude everyone. That is probably because a century of “progressive” ideas has completely befuddled us about what a job really is. A job is a contract between a buyer and a seller. The employee is the seller, who sells his services to an employer for a mutually agreed upon price – his wages. This contract is one that both parties enter into voluntarily. The employer purchases the services because he is willing and able to do so. The employee sells for precisely the same reasons. Each has a right not to enter into the agreement, or to terminate it anytime he wishes.

However, when the government “saves or creates jobs,” it completely overrides the voluntary nature of this arrangement. If an employer is no longer willing or able to continue to purchase the services of an employee, the government has only one means at its disposal to change that outcome: brute force. It uses this force to confiscate the property of other people and thereby force them to purchase the services of the employee, since the employer is no longer willing or able to do so himself. The government claims it has saved a job, but it certainly has not secured any rights. In fact, it has acted counter to its purpose. It has destroyed the rights that it exists to protect.

It is the same evil at work in the president’s call for “health care reform.” As part of his plans to “improve the system,” the government will not only annihilate the right of property but liberty as well. While taxing some in order to pay the doctor bills of others, the federal government will ensure that no one can even conscientiously object. Every American will be required to purchase insurance from one of the government’s pet corporations, regardless of whether they want to or not. This amounts to a mandatory fee paid to the government merely for the privilege of being alive. Once the right to property is destroyed, the rights to liberty and even to life are destroyed with them.

Without repeating the analysis for every program that the president described, they all rest upon the same logic. There is some mysterious entity called “society” whose needs outweigh the rights of every individual that comprises it. In fact, it is apparent from the president’s speech (and those of most of his predecessors) that the federal government recognizes no rights of any individual whatsoever. Sadly, there are not many among the citizenry who think any differently. So long as representatives have been democratically elected, their power knows no bounds and recognizes no rights.

America was founded upon exactly the opposite idea. The reason that the U.S Constitution guarantees every American “a Republican form of government,” rather than a democratic one, is precisely because its framers believed that individual rights cannot be voted away. We cannot vote ourselves a right to other people’s property, not even to save millions of jobs (although it is really not possible to do so anyway). We cannot vote away another’s liberty, not even to lower health care costs for those who cannot afford it (although this will not work either). This was the central principle upon which our nation was founded – that we are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights. A pure democracy does not recognize these rights.

Progressives promote the idea that “taxation without representation” was the chief injustice that led to the American Revolution. This is convenient to their agenda, because they go on to justify any tax levied by a democratically-elected body on the grounds that those being taxed were represented in that body.

Of course, this begs the question, “Why did the founders specifically instruct Benjamin Franklin not to under any circumstances accept an offer of representation for the colonies in the British parliament?” Perhaps we should be so wise. Secession anyone?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.