Under the rule of law, all men are subject to the same set of rules.
This is what the luminaries of the 19th century referred to as liberalism. The point is, liberty is enhanced when those who enforce the rules are bound by the same rules that they enforce against others. It’s really quite simple.
The Constitution of the United States was written to codify this concept. It was intended to work with Blackstone’s publication of common law to ensure that one set of rules applied to everyone.
A crucial aspect of this concept is that the laws must be enforced evenly. In order to ensure that the rules are enforced evenly, the enforcement agency necessarily has limited discretion in the enforcement. The beat cop has to arrest the burglar, regardless of how he’s dressed or who his father is.
This appeals to our sense of fairness, doesn’t it? We all agree that if someone breaks into our home in the middle of the night, they should be subject to the same sort of punishment no matter who they may be or who they might know.
This, very simply, is equality before the law. If you break the law, there will be defined and predictable consequences, whether you’re wealthy or poor, famous or unknown, beautiful or plain.
This is the essence of the American legal system.
Well, anyway, it was once upon a time. There have always been attempts to bend the rules, and traffic cops have a huge amount of latitude in the application of speeding laws. Realistically, we probably don’t want to remove all discretion from those at the sharp end of the spear. By and large, our police do a most excellent job of maintaining order under what frequently are trying circumstances. I think most of us have at some point seen a policeman who was much more courteous than the situation seemed to call for.
We have today an entirely different circumstance.
Every law in this country is, theoretically, enacted by the due authority of the legislature and within the limits set by the Constitution. The executive branch of the government has the responsibility to enforce these laws. This is the very foundation of our nation.
What I’m about to say may seem critical of our current situation. It truly is, but supporters of the current administration will correctly observe that this administration didn’t start it, that it was nearly the same under the last administration. They’re right… and horribly mistaken to support it.
You see, the administration has the responsibility to enforce our immigration laws. Congress has the authority to define the policies regarding who is allowed to enter the country, and under what circumstances. The administration simply has the responsibility to enforce those rules; they do not have authority to decide not to enforce them.
Given the number of “undocumented workers” in this country, we must conclude that the administration has chosen not to enforce these laws. This is, unequivocally, a crime.
Congress has assumed the authority to determine under what circumstances we may purchase firearms. While this is not clearly within their purview, they have elected to deny this right to convicted felons and those who are not legal residents of the United States. We’ve been hearing over the last few weeks that our government has intentionally allowed felons and illegal aliens to buy firearms. This is a crime under the current statutes.
Congress has denied the EPA the authority to control streams that are not “navigable” – which authority, by the way, isn’t clearly theirs to grant, but it’s certainly within their charter to deny an administrative agency such authority. The EPA has announced plans to proceed with regulation anyway. This is a crime.
The War Powers Act that authorizes the President to deploy military force for up to 60 days at his discretion isn’t clearly according to the Constitution, but it is clear that the President can’t exceed the authority granted by Congress, yet not only are we applying force to Libya with our military, we’ve been doing so for well beyond the 60 days the law calls for. This is a crime.
The Transportation Safety Agency is an organization whose very existence is not authorized by the Constitution. The existence of the agency isn’t necessarily a crime. The ongoing violation of the Fourth Amendment that their peek, prod, and grope policies represent is, however.
It isn’t just the current Administration, either.
Our duly elected representatives have used their authority to borrow money on our behalf. They have that legitimate authority. However, the bulk of what they’ve spent the money on over the years is not within their authority. This gargantuan theft from future generations constitutes a continuing criminal enterprise, and under federal law that makes those responsible liable for some rather stiff penalties, and the guilty include every Senator, Representative, and President who signed off on these extra-Constitutional measures. The number of repeat offenders is incredibly large, going back more than a century. The sheer scale of the theft is beyond human comprehension, and that brings us back to the original point.
We were a nation under the rule of law. We have now been saddled with so many regulatory agencies with competing agendas that we can no longer predict whether we are in compliance with the rules. This is bad enough, but we haven’t yet begun to see the effects from the huge number of new federal agencies created under last year’s health care bill (and a few other bills along the way). The web of rules being created can only have the purpose of ensuring that none of us is ever in compliance with all of the rules. This can only be dealt with by giving those in authority the discretion to enforce the rules as they see fit.
Rule enforcement by discretion is the antithesis of rule of law.
It is, properly identified, tyranny.
The big news as I write this is the breakdown in the debt talks.
That’s wrong… not that we’re focused on debt, but rather that we’re NOT focused on debt. We’re talking about DEFICIT, or “adding to” the debt.
If you’re a citizen of the United States, your share of the debt is more than $42,000 (not counting unfunded liabilities, here we’re only talking about the part the politicians admit to). Each of your children also owes over $42,000. That’s today, assuming we don’t borrow any more.
Let’s use the numbers from the Congressional Budget office, while noting that those numbers will be as favorable to the government as possible. According to the May results released in July, the monthly deficit was $58,000,000,000. We borrowed just over $175 for every resident of the country
in the month of May alone.
Using the CBO numbers, we’re borrowing $.25 out of ever dollar we spend (have you tried that trick at home?). Now, the President has conceded that it might be possible to bring that down to 20 cents per dollar spent OVER 10 YEARS. The Republican establishment has dug in their heels and stubbornly insisted on reducing the amount to 15 cents per dollar spent OVER 10 YEARS.
In other words, all of the fuss is about how much we’ll add to that $42,000 your three-year-old already owes. No one ANYWHERE is talking about reducing the debt. The President thinks you should spend $160 more than you’re paying for each month, and the Republicans think you should spend $145.
That’s right, the Republican leadership is agreeing to $145 of new debt per month per person for the next 10 years.
Nothing more needs to be said, does it?
Do not be afraid.
It’s easy to say, isn’t it?
It isn’t as if there weren’t real threats out there. We all see things every day that can kill us, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be a regular news-watcher you know more about threats to your person and our society than is good for your peace of mind.
In spite of this, I say, “do not be afraid”.
Now, it isn’t really my phrase. “Fear not” is the single most repeated command in the Bible, and anyone who’s been in the military, or played organized sports, has almost certainly heard something to the effect that there’s no point being afraid – they can only kill you, after all. Why do we make all that noise? Fear is natural, after all. Each of us experiences fear. Anyone who does not is not only not normal, but probably ill. One could easily argue that fear is a sign of mental health, under many circumstances.
Do not be afraid. There’s a reason.
Most of us recall Yoda in Star Wars saying “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Fear is paralytic. It causes us to freeze when we should flee, to surrender when we should fight, or hyperventilate when we should pick up a fire extinguisher.
Fear leads us to poor judgement. We exchange liberties for the appearance of security.
Do not be afraid.
If you review the liberties infringed in the name of “security” by the Patriot Act (and other ill-advised measures), you find that we are significantly less free than we once were. The argument has been made that we are more secure than we were, that if we had not implemented these measures, we would most certainly have had another major terror incident by now.
The thing is, if you allow yourself to be afraid, you begin to think that it’s not really important if you have to take off clothing, walk through an X-ray system, give a urine sample, submit to a background check, go through an assortment of electronic monitoring and surveillance systems, present your papers to leave town, surrender any defensive weapons… all of these things are the hallmarks of police states. We are not a free people any longer, and it’s due to fear.
Butbutbut they want to kill us!
Yes, they always have, and once upon a time we accepted that and dealt with it when it came up. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we should not be proactive! I am, however, saying that we are not a nation of cowards and it is not seemly to behave as if we were. If this keeps on, we will be a nation of cowards, make no mistake.
Have you noticed that all the fun stuff has been removed from the playgrounds? It’s fear, either fear that someone will be injured, or more likely, fear that someone will be sued.
The prospect of a lawsuit seems to frighten some of us more than the terrorists do.
Have you noticed they’re taking all the fun food out of the school cafeterias? It’s fear that this generation of children might have heart problems if they eat fun food for 50 years. That’s possible, I suppose, but if they get frustrated and drive a truckload of propane into their office, they probably won’t make it that long. Maybe the Twinkies weren’t all that bad after all?
Of course, they justify the boring (or even frightening) food by pointing to the fear of higher health care costs. We’ll agree, I’m sure, that unhealthy lifestyle choices do, in fact, lead to higher health-care costs (or shorter lives, pick one or both…). Now of course, the only reason they claim an interest in our health-care costs is because they’ve insisted on taking our responsibility to care for ourselves away.
Health care costs are going up for a large number of reasons (none of which was addressed by the health care bill, by the way) but one of the largest is the aforementioned lawsuits.
I tend to reflexively disagree with Franklin Delano Roosevelt; I believe he did more harm to the Republic than any individual in the 20th century. I will call to mind one of his quotes: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Plainly, that’s wrong. There’s plenty to be afraid of, but fear that causes us to act in haste is truly to be feared. Surrendering liberty will not make us safer; it will only make us less free.
Do not be afraid. It’s crucial to your liberty.