Tag Archives: constitution

It’s Not Democracy That’s Dying; It’s Our Anti-Democratic Safeguards

Everyone is worried about “our democracy.” The left believes Donald Trump is trying to destroy it by challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election, aided by state legislatures controlled by his party passing stricter voter identification and ballot verification laws.

The right believes the Democratic Party is trying to destroy democracy by stuffing ballot boxes with illegitimate votes and flooding the country with undocumented immigrants who will either vote illegally themselves or have children who will eventually vote Democrat.

They all agree on one thing. Our democracy is in peril, and it must be saved.

Certainly, if there was enough fraud to change the results of any election, that is a problem. But what is tearing our society apart is not destruction of our democracy, because we don’t live in a democracy. And it isn’t just a republic, either. All “republic” means is that the people elect representatives to perform the various functions of government. North Korea is a republic; China is a republic. Neither are countries in which most Americans would want to live.

No, what made the American system better was not its democratic elections or republican form but it’s anti-democratic safeguards. The Constitution allows for representatives to be elected democratically – although only the House of Representatives was originally by direct vote of the people – but the rest of its provisions are there to protect us from democracy.

The bicameral legislature, presidential veto, separation of powers, and strictly enumerated powers are all intended to protect individuals from what democratically elected representatives might do.

The Bill of Rights is completely anti-democratic. Its articles say the democratically elected Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, shall not infringe the rights of free speech, or to bear arms. They say the democratically elected executive shall not conduct unreasonable searches, punish you without due process, etc.

The key to all the so-called “checks and balances” in the Constitution is they set up adversarial processes that must occur before power is exercised.  

Older readers may remember the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon, “I’m Just a Bill.” It attempts to educate youngsters on all the hoops a bill must jump through to become a law. While clever, the problem with its tone is the strong implication that the bill failing to become a law is regrettable, even tragic.

That the Constitution makes it difficult to pass a law is a feature, not a bug.

The popular sentiment that Congress “isn’t getting anything done” springs from the same misconception. When a bill is proposed and subsequently either dies in committee or fails to pass a general vote, Congress did indeed “get something done.” It vetted the proposition to require or prohibit some human activity by force and (usually wisely) declined to do so. That’s as much “getting something done” as passing the bill – and usually ages better.

Yet, while still professing fidelity to the Constitution, federal legislators have passed many laws allowing the executive branch to bypass this entire process and effectively legislate by fiat. If you’re wondering how President Trump could levy a tariff (a tax) on imports without a law passed by Congress, it’s because Congress passed the Trade Act of 1974, effectively allowing the president to exercise this power exclusively delegated to Congress if, in his sole judgment, “any existing duties or other import restrictions of any foreign country or the United States are unduly burdening and restricting the foreign trade of the United States.”

The National Emergencies Act similarly transfers legislative power to the president by his merely declaring an emergency to exist. Worse yet, the “state of emergency” doesn’t end until the president declares it is over or Congress passes a joint resolution to end it – which can be vetoed by the president!

As I’ve written before, the entire New Deal constitutes an unconstitutional transfer of power from the legislature to the executive by allowing regulatory agencies to not only write their own regulations (legislate) but often usurp the judicial power by deciding disputes in their own administrative courts.

That’s why President Biden can mandate vaccines for businesses with over one hundred employees without new legislation from Congress. He can simply have OSHA require it through “regulation” – a euphemism for the executive branch legislating.

Needless to say, Congress cannot assign powers exclusively delegated to itself to another branch of the government, no matter how many legal or logical acrobatics Supreme Court justices have performed saying they can. There would be no need for Article V of the Constitution if Congress could merely override the separation of powers or other constitutional constraints with legislation. And the Constitution certainly provides for emergencies. There is no emergency more serious than war, for which the Constitution clearly provides.

Yet, no one blinks an eye when a president decides to bomb Syria (name one that hasn’t lately) without a declaration of war and in violation of the War Powers Resolution which specifically limits the president’s power to “introduce the United States Armed Forces into hostilities” to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” [emphasis added]

The list of violations of the Constitution’s limitations on power and separation of those powers it does grant is too long to cover here. But they all have one thing in common: they eliminate adversarial processes capable of overriding the will of majority – of overriding democracy – to preserve liberty.

Everyone recognizes the political climate in the United States is toxic and many legitimately fear it will become violent. This isn’t because democracy is diminished. Rather, it is because the people of these states have tolerated the erosion or elimination of most restraints on democracy built into our Constitution.

My own view of the Constitution is much closer to Lysander Spooner’s than Madison’s or Jefferson’s. But as I said four years ago, the limits it places on federal power, especially in terms of the separation of powers between the federal and state governments, could prove useful in easing the pressure before the boiler explodes. While peaceful, full-scale secession from both the federal and state governments might be the philosophical ideal, it is much less likely than a “soft secession,” accomplished by simply enforcing the Constitution’s limits on federal government power.

That soft secession has already begun, although most of those seceding probably don’t realize they are doing so. Over half the states have nullified federal marijuana laws by passing state legislation legalizing their use for medical purposes, recreation, or both. Many blue state cities have declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” refusing to enforce federal immigration laws. 

Most recently, Texas passed a law prohibiting abortion once a fetal heart rate is detectable, or more accurately clarifying laws prohibiting abortion never taken off the books after Roe v. Wade. 

None of the federal laws or regulations in question are constitutional. They were all merely passed by Congress or enacted by executive edict and then, in some cases, “discovered” to be constitutional by the Supreme Court. Madison himself said regulating immigration was a power “no where delegated” to the federal government. And whether one considers abortion healthcare or homicide, the federal government isn’t given power over either. 

Most people in red states have a visceral hatred for sanctuary cities, just as most in blue states hate the Texas abortion bill. And that’s just the point. These are matters that can only be dealt with locally. No supermajority of states ever has or ever will consent to the federal government imposing one policy in these areas over all the states.

The response to Covid-19 has followed the trend. In 2020, there was an increasingly diverse policy response as the pandemic progressed, with some states imposing severe lockdowns and mask mandates while others imposed less severe restrictions or none at all. South Dakota led the way in refusing from the start to close businesses or issue stay-at-home orders, followed by Florida in September 2020 and Iowa and Texas in early 2021. 

As for President Biden’s vaccine mandate (announced but not yet written), Florida and Texas have already banned the mandates within their states, while South Dakota governor Kristi Noem took the most libertarian approach in neither mandating nor banning vaccine mandates for private businesses. Meanwhile, New York’s governor Kathy Hochul has ordered all healthcare workers in her state to get the vaccine and is prepared to call in National Guard personnel to replace those who don’t comply.

Many fear violent conflict resulting from state nullification of federal laws or regulations. But we haven’t seen that over nullification of marijuana prohibition and we wouldn’t likely see it when state governments take similar action on other issues. 

Rather than a recipe for violence, more widespread soft secession from the present, unconstitutional system would allow the two dominant political tribes to stand down from their current, confrontational posture. And it would allow the rest of us to at least “pick our poison” in terms of which less-than-ideal system we would prefer.

Most important, it would save us all from what we have now: democracy run amok.

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.

Just like modern “progressives,” the big government Federalists meant well

mobocracyIt’s true Federalists like Madison (at the time) and Hamilton proposed a much stronger federal government than the 1788 constitutional convention authorized, but many people wrongly argue they were motivated by purely tyrannical intentions. On the contrary, their main motivation was the belief a stronger central government would protect the individual from the democratic mobocracies they believed the states were already becoming.

While there is certainly an argument their concerns were exaggerated at the time, one need look no further than NY, CA, MA or any number of “blue states” (and many red ones, too) for proof their concerns were valid. 

The flaw in their thinking was that a more powerful central government would ever protect individual rights from government power. Everything they wanted and more has come in through the back door over the past 231 years. Hamilton’s central bank and Madison’s federal government veto over state laws (but by SCOTUS, instead of Congress, as Madison proposed) are just two examples. We can see their strong central government turned out precisely the opposite of what they intended.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and absolute power over hundreds of millions of people, concentrated in one city, is absolutely terrifying.

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.

Jefferson and Madison: Regulating Immigration a Power “No Where Delegated to the Federal Government”

immigration_constitutionPresident Trump announced his second nomination to the Supreme Court on Monday. Perhaps as forward in the minds of conservatives as preserving the right to keep and bear arms, expressly protected from federal infringement by the Second Amendment, is how the new justice might rule on the Trump administration’s various immigration policies, decried by the left as “fascist!” and supported by the right as the federal government’s “constitutional duty.”

Yet, federal regulation of immigration is a power both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison maintained was “no where delegated to the federal government.” And since no amendment has granted that power since they made that argument in 1798, it is exercised by the federal government without the consent of the governed, legitimized only by the same kind of “activist Court” conservatives condemn when it sanctions federal power they don’t like.

First, to the document itself. Conservatives make two arguments for the Constitution somehow delegating this power. One is completely spurious; the other more plausible, but ultimately without merit. The first argument is the power is granted with the words, “To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” in Article I, Section 8. But “naturalization” concerns only who can become a citizen of the United States, not who can visit, work or live as a permanent alien. When pressed, even most reasonable immigration hawks will concede this.

The second argument concerns the first paragraph of Section 9, which reads, “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” The reasoning here is that since the federal government is prohibited from banning migration (immigration) or importation (the slave trade) only until 1808, it must be granted the power to do so after 1808.

This is the same backwards reading of the Constitution – that anything not prohibited to the federal government must be within its powers – that conservatives scream bloody murder about on almost any other issue. It is true that for individuals possessing an inalienable right to liberty, a law which prohibits, for example, certain activity on Wednesdays and Fridays does not restrict individuals from that activity on any other days of the week. That is a correct legal interpretation for laws pertaining to individuals.

However, the Constitution is not a set of laws pertaining to individuals and the federal government does not have an inalienable right to liberty. On the contrary, the Constitution is written with the assumption the federal government has no power not delegated to it. The Tenth Amendment was ratified to ensure that point wasn’t lost. Therefore, just because certain powers are prohibited to the federal government by one or another clause of the Constitution, one cannot assume that any power not prohibited is granted. Only powers explicitly delegated are within the federal government’s purview. Strict constructionists go so far as to point out the words “expressly delegated” were used in many of the ratifying conventions, “expressly” left out by Madison in drafting the Tenth Amendment because he thought it unnecessary.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

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.

Newsweek: As Congress and Trump Grind to a Halt, the Government Rumbles On

gettyimages-642093036 Newsweek

Donald Trump in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.MARIO TAMA/GETTY

President Trump spent the weekend embroiled in yet another Twitter skirmish, this time with retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker. Trump may even have suffered a rare defeat on his own turf, based on Corker’s hilarious rejoinder about someone missing their daycare shift at the White House. If Trump has a soul, even he laughed at that one.

But many blame this kind of drama as a major contributing reason to Trump “not getting anything done” so far during the first year of his presidency. Even those on the blood-in-their-eyes, Trump-hating left make this criticism. One would think they’d be glad he’s not getting anything done, but apparently, a government not doing anything is even worse for them than one doing things they don’t like.

If only “not getting anything done” were true. The Pentagon goes on waging war, uninterrupted by elections, supposed gridlock, or even “government shutdowns.” War has become the normal state, with “an act of Congress” required to stop it, rather than start it.

Domestically, all of Washington’s unconstitutional regulatory agencies have hummed along without pause. The FDA is still driving up prescription drug prices by keeping thousands of generics off the market. The TSA is still violating the 4th Amendment millions of times per day while virtually never discovering dangerous items brought on board, even during their own tests. And the Social Security Administration goes on cutting checks as if it didn’t have tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities.

Read the rest at Newsweek…

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.

Without Rand Paul It Isn’t a Debate, Trump or No Trump

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The big news from last Thursday’s Republican Presidential Debate on Fox News was the absence of what Meghan Kelly called, “the elephant not in the room.” Thanks to the ongoing feud between her and front runner Donald Trump, the latter was not on the stage. In what was largely treated as a footnote, Rand Paul was.

Several media have asserted the debate was more substantive without Trump, the issues having more space in the absence of his overpowering personality and the likely attention that would have been paid to his controversial style. But it wasn’t Trump’s absence that made this debate more substantive. It was Rand Paul’s presence. Without him, the last spectacle wasn’t a debate at all.

Debate moderators are television people. They are interested in whatever makes the best television and gets the highest ratings. The debate moderators on Thursday, echoing the larger media narrative, continually pushed the establishment vs. anti-establishment theme. That’s certainly a phenomenon in this election cycle, but it really means nothing in terms of policy.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to determine the difference, if any, between the candidates seeking the presidency. Without Rand Paul, there isn’t a difference to determine, not even with Trump. Trumps style might be different, but he’s a lot more like an establishment Republican than the media narrative would have one believe.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

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.

No Hillary, Donald et al, The President’s First Job is Not to Keep Americans Safe

n-CONSTITUTION-large570The Democratic debate on Saturday proved one thing: powerful interests that transcend the political parties have an agenda. That’s the only explanation for the talking point mindlessly repeated by virtually all of the presidential candidates in both parties: “It is the first job of the president to keep Americans safe.”

Maybe it’s a slogan that’s been thrown around in Council on Foreign Relations meetings or some other gathering of the wonderful people who make all the decisions for us rubes. But wherever it came from, it was certainly no coincidence Americans heard it from virtually every candidate, Democrat or Republican, during the past two debates. It would have been only slightly spookier if they heaped effusive praise on Raymond Shaw.

More important than it being creepy and patronizing is that it’s completely wrong. The first job of the president is not to keep Americans safe. It is to defend their liberty.

 

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

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.

Earth to Bill Maher: Edward Snowden isn’t the crazy one

GREENWALD-largeTAMPA, January 21, 2014 – Bill Maher interviewed journalist Glenn Greenwald following President Obama’s speech on Friday in which the president discussed his proposals to reform the NSA. Greenwald is the journalist who first reported on the information released by Edward Snowden on the government’s domestic surveillance activities.

While Maher was respectful of Greenwald and, to some extent, Snowden, he went out of his way to smear some of Snowden’s claims about the government’s activities as “completely nuts.” He also found it necessary to take a shot at Ron Paul, who wasn’t even involved in the issue at hand.

For Maher and too many likeminded people, anyone who doesn’t view the government as a benevolent force for good is a tinfoil-hat-wearing kook who believes all civilian life is the target of a massive conspiracy involving the government, secret societies, aliens, etc. Thus Maher’s retort, “Everyone in the government isn’t out to get you.”

That’s what’s known as “framing the debate.” You’re either with Bill Maher and President Obama or you’re with the kooks. You may also be somewhere in the middle, where Maher apparently places Snowden. It completely ignores the many other perspectives one might have, including that of most libertarians.

Libertarians don’t believe that the people who work for the government are evil. It’s the institution of government itself, a monopoly on the use of force that can martial the resources of the entire nation. That kind of power is dangerous even when used by good people with good intentions.

Read the rest of the article at The Huffington Post…

Obama’s proposed NSA reforms prove he doesn’t understand checks and balances

utah datacenterPresident Obama delivered a speech on Friday outlining his plans to address the widespread outrage over the domestic surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. However well-intentioned, the president’s proposals indicate he just doesn’t get the constitutional notion of delegated powers.

Implicit in the Fourth Amendment is the principle that the government should remain powerless unless and until an individual is reasonably suspected of having committed a crime. It isn’t even allowed to search one’s person or papers (viz. phone records, emails) to collect the proof it needs until it persuades a judge that it has probable cause.

The only reason the Fourth Amendment offers any protection is it prescribes an adversarial process. The judicial branch is predisposed to refuse to issue a warrant until the executive branch provides sufficient evidence of probable cause.

Read the rest of the article at the Daily Caller…

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.

 

Obama says Edward Snowden isn’t a patriot

Tampa August 10, 2013 – Yesterday, President Obama spoke to reporters about his plans to address the growing public outcry over domestic spying programs run by the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. During the press conference, Obama said that he didn’t consider Edward Snowden a patriot. Instead, those doing the spying are the patriots, along with those who have “lawfully raised their voices” to defend civil liberties.

Edward Snowden may have broken the law, but “the law is often but the tyrants will,” as Thomas Jefferson famously said.

Never has that been truer than now, when the law protects lawbreakers and forces defenders of our most sacred principles to seek political asylum in other countries. That anyone would seek asylum from the United States government at all, much less in Russia, would have been the stuff of wild fantasy just a few decades ago. Now, the torture of prisoners, arrest and detention without warrant and even execution without a trial are regarded as commonplace.

President Obama is on the wrong side of history.

Edward Snowden will be remembered as a patriot.

President Obama will be remembered as the first U.S. president to kill an American citizen without a trial. History has a word for that, too.

It isn’t patriot.

This has all happened before. Read my op-ed in The Washington Times on the first Edward Snowden in U.S. history…