Essential Liberty-A republic, if you can keep it

02/05/2010 10:01

“A republic, if you can keep it”

At the close of the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked if the delegates had formed a republic or a monarchy. “A republic,” he responded, “if you can keep it.”

He added, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

To that end, as a warning for future generations to beware of “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men,” George Washington wrote, “A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.”

Daniel Webster wrote, “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

Ominously, Alexander Hamilton noted, “Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.”

John Adams observed, “Is the present state of the national republic enough? Is virtue the principle of our government? Is honor? Or is ambition and avarice, adulation, baseness, covetousness, the thirst for riches, indifference concerning the means of rising and enriching, the contempt of principle, the spirit of party and of faction the motive and principle that governs?”

Adams cautioned, “A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

Unfortunately, and at great peril to our liberty, our Constitution has suffered generations of “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled” politicians and judges whose successors now recognize only vestiges of its original intent for governance. Consequently, constitutional Rule of Law has been undermined by those who have deserted their sacred oaths to “support and defend” the same.

As the erosion of constitutional authority undermines individual liberty, it likewise undermines economic liberty.

In Federalist No. 45, James Madison wrote, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined [and] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.”

But by 1794, Madison had begun to rail against government's unconstitutional urge to redistribute the wealth of its citizens: “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”

Jefferson wrote: “[G]iving [Congress] a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole [Constitution] to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. [The Constitution] was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect.”

But at the onset of the Great Depression a century later, that same wealthy aristocrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who upended constitutionally limited government, undertook an equally injurious assault on economic liberty.

FDR, like many “inheritance welfare” politicos today, had an unquenchable thirst for power and used the Great Depression as cover to redefine and expand the role of the central government via countless extra-constitutional decrees as well as the means to justify how the government would fund that folly.

Roosevelt issued this dubious proclamation: “Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle.”

Of course, his “American principle” was nothing more than a paraphrase of Karl Marx's maxim, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

Indeed, Roosevelt's “principles” had no basis in the Rule of Law or the laws of free enterprise, and his New Deal gave rise to what is now the central government's most oppressive weapon: The U.S. Tax Code.

Of government welfare programs, Madison wrote, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents...”

Accordingly, Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution, which addresses the powers of the legislature, does not give Congress the authority to collect taxes for banking, mortgage and automaker bailouts, or to subsidize production or service sectors like healthcare, or to fund education and retirement, much less, tens-of-thousands of earmarks for special interest “pork projects.”

Congress is also not authorized to institute countless conditions for the redistribution of wealth in its 20 volume, 14,000 page Tax Code, or to impose millions of regulations on everything from CO2 emissions to toilet water volume.

Today, more than 70 percent of the federal budget is spent on “objects of benevolence,” for which there is no constitutional authority. Put another way, much of your income is confiscated by the government and redistributed unconstitutionally. And the current Democrat hegemony has saddled the nation with more government debt than all previous administrations combined, in effect assuring the confiscation of income from future generations for purposes not expressly authorized by our Constitution.

Of such debt, Jefferson concluded, “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

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