“You’re suspicious to me.”

The Campaign for Liberty is a political organization formed last year to continue advocating the political and economic principles on which the Ron Paul presidential campaign was founded.  As a proud member, I was interested to learn that an internal report of the Missouri State Police lumped the Campaign for Liberty in with skinheads and Branch Davidians as a part of the “modern militia movement.”  The report (dated Feb. 20, 2009) listed a number of supposed hallmarks of domestic terrorist organizations, including opposition to the Federal Reserve system, advocacy for a gold standard, and a belief in the impending economic collapse of the United States.  In one particularly silly paragraph, the report stated,

Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups.  It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material.  These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate:  Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr.

I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or amused by this, but C4L officials took it seriously, possibly because they were at that time planning a big regional conference in St. Louis.  The report was roundly condemned, impressively satirized, and subsequently withdrawn.  The Missouri State Police apologized to the named presidential candidates, and it seemed to be over.

But now there’s this:  Returning from the St. Louis conference, C4L organizer Steve Bierfeldt was detained and harassed by the Transportation Security Administration, apparently because he was carrying $4,700 in cash and checks.  There was, of course, no suggestion that this was illegal.  In an extremely heads-up move, Bierfeldt used his cellphone to record the interrrogation.  It makes for extremely interesting listening.  I think my favorite part is when one of the questioners (who repeatedly refuse to tell Bierfeldt why he is being detained or why the amount of cash is of interest to them) offers the justification that I adopt as the title of this post:  “You’re suspicious to me.”  That remark clarified a whole lot more than the speaker probably intended.

We’ve talked a lot recently about the economic pros and cons of big government.  It’s useful to remember that there are even better reasons to keep the government small.  The massive increase in the size and intrusiveness of government manifests itself most clearly in the way ordinary citizens get treated by guys with badges.  Some would like to ignore the tendency of guys with badges to abuse their power, and a good many more would like to pretend that tendency is the characteristic fetish of just one political party or the other.  I think history, not to mention the work of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo, shows convincingly that the problem runs a whole lot deeper than party platforms.  Statistically speaking, power and its abuse are highly correlated.

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37 Responses to ““You’re suspicious to me.””

  1. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    The only thing surprising today is that this kind of stuff would be surprising.

    Having done lots of it, flying used to oftimes be an actually pleasant experience. Those days are long gone, for many reasons–but the TSA is near the top of the list. I’ve never been arrested, but if you ever hear that I am (as in when I call you to bail me out : ), it will be highly probable that it will be over an altercation with one of these “Totally Stupid Asses” that’s protecting us. Doug Casey has often questioned where these people come from, but then answers himself well that many of them are simply those of our fellow man who can’t make it in the real world of having to offer something of value to society. And they get off on the power that they can wield over us under the threat of government force that they could never wield in any other way. When things happen in societies that bring us down the path we’re rapidly descending, such people come out of the woodwork.

    Next time you have some extra time, just hang around (but NOT too close or they WILL react) the security station and just watch these folks. A significant number are condescending and rude and absolutely love the power that they have over folks who would just like to freely travel in their allegedly free country. Most recently, these “officers” of the TSA have all been in the process of changing from their old white shirts to blue ones so that they appear more like law enforcement officials.

    And the majority of travelers do whatever they’re told and take whatever abuse is dished out.

    [As a related aside, check out http://securityedition.com/ which is one of the places where you can get shirt-pocket-sized metal cards of the Bill of Rights (with the 4th highlighted) that you can take through security and when you set off the alarm, hand ’em to the TSA agent with something cheeky like “oh, those are just my rights–you take ’em.”

    Unfortunately, it’s not just the TSA that is getting these folks, though. You do not have to be at all paranoid to see the growing cadre of such types in multiple government or government-related organizations (including places like your local bank–stories for another day).

    And even MORE unfortunately, we’re all gonna see this stuff get more prevalent still, I fear…

  2. Ken Rynne Says:

    “You’re specious to me.”

    ‘It’s useful to remember that there are even better reasons to KEEP the government small.” I might say, to RETURN domestic federal law enforcement [or
    Missouri law enforcement OR TSA] to pre-9/11 levels.

    ‘The massive increase in the size and intrusiveness of government manifests itself most clearly in the way ordinary citizens get treated by guys with badges.’

    I might say, the massive increase in the size and intrusiveness of HOMELAND SECURITY [or TSA] rather than ‘government’
    NOTE before 9/11 passenger security was an airline responsibility.

    “Some would like to ignore the tendency of guys with badges to abuse their power, and a good many more would like to pretend that tendency is the characteristic fetish of just one political party or the other.”

    I would observe that abuse of power in not a partisan issue – it is widely shared.

    I would also observe that the Republican party led by George W. Bush, his Attorney General, and their flexible lawyers brought us to a lawless government out of control at home and abroad that in John Dean’s words was ‘Worse than Watergate.’ The scope, depth, and degree of systemic corruption of the Bush Administration is light years beyond public corruption on the other side. Neither side is free of guilt. All are criminal. But the impact of the shoplifter is not really the same as that of Don Corleone.

  3. Mark Grannis Says:

    It’s clearly true that 9/11 was the catalyst for some of the “enhancements” of our domestic security efforts. My own belief is that, by absolutizing our security and relativizing our liberty, we seriously weakened our national commitment to a government limited by the rule of law rather than the discretion of men and women.

    But I think it is a mistake to single out 9/11 or the TSA as if they were unique in this regard. Economic disruptions set many of the same forces in motion. President Obama just fired the head of General Motors, and Congress is considering legislation that would allow the federal government to seize businesses that pose “systemic risks” (whatever those are), apparently without regard to the size of the business, the industry it’s in, or whether it received any federal loans or guarantees. As with 9/11, a reasonable argument can be made for these measures. But it is almost always possible to make a reasonable argument for greater government control if one assumes that the government will exercise that control prudently. In times of stress, we seem disposed to grant that assumption, even though both our experience of power and our experience of gigantic institutions should make us extremely skeptical.

    And Ken R., I think it is an extremely serious mistake to cavil about which major party is preferable to the other. A few hours before you commented yesterday, someone else was trying to convince me that while both parties have their faults, the Republicans are much more committed to individual liberty. I’m not impressed with either party’s claim to superiority. It’s not, I think, that there are no differences between the parties, but rather that the differences are accidental, transitory, and above all marginal.

    Accidental and transitory, because they depend on who can benefit from criticism, and that tends to change. Democrats fully supported the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq, but they were the first to wake up to their errors in that regard because a Republican was in the White House. Republicans, who supported massive deficit spending, entitlement expansion, off-budget chicanery, and successive financial bailouts under President George W. Bush, are now suddenly awake to the radicalism of the same exact policies under President Obama. See also Vietnam vs. Iraq, Nixon’s wage and price controls, and Truman’s attempt to seize the steel mills.

    But above all, marginal, because despite the fact that both parties include some genuinely admirable people, neither party on the whole has any inclination to actually diminish the power of government officials or our national ambitions toward empire, and it is the steady increase of that power and those ambitions that will bring this nation down if not reversed. The R budget versus the D budget was like a 20 foot ladder versus a 10 foot ladder when viewed from the bottom of a 50 foot hole — better, but totally inadequate. The D level of foreign military commitment (so far) versus the R level of foreign military commitment is like camping in a lions’ den versus walking in and poking the lions with sharp sticks — better, but still a recipe for disaster.

    The parties as such are private clubs that are committed to the election and reelection of as many of their own as possible, and the only limit on perpetual aggrandizement that either party recognizes is the limit of what voters will stand for. As Ron Paul pointed out the other day, when the economy expands, the government expands, and when the economy contracts, the government expands more. Over time, both parties have been entirely complicit in this, and virtually the only bright spot in our lifetimes was the 1994-2000 period of divided government, for which both parties claim credit and seem to me to have roughly equal claims. Neither party, as currently constituted, is even vaguely disposed to make the sharp turns called for as the iceberg approaches.

  4. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    Good points all, Mark…

    There is a reason that the parties have oft been referred to as the Demoplicans and Republicrats. In terms of the main goals–exercising power over the individuals whose liberties they increasingly curtail and eliminate.

    Both parties wish to and do grow the leviathan and continue to pave the road to serfdom.

    Following the iceberg theme, arguing about any real differences between our two dominant parties is truly just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…

  5. David Fitzgerald Says:

    Last night, I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Georgetown Club of New York on the current state of private equity. I asked the panelists whether any of their firms were seriously looking at partnering with the Treasury to buy legacy assets through the Public-Private Investment Fund, detailed here http://www.financialstability.gov/roadtostability/publicprivatefund.html.

    I got two very telling responses. First, everyone was waiting for the Treasury to provide detailed rules for the program. Second, there was deep scepticism regarding the ability of the government to play by the rules it sets out over the long term. Investors are worried that if the program yields outsize profit to private actors, the government will try and claw those profits back through taxation or more direct means.

    That is an astonishing worry by US investors about the US government and I believe it is unique in our history. Never before (perhaps with the exception of antebellum nullifiers and secessionists), in my view, have American citizens been so concerned with their government’s basic commitment to the rule of law.

    I know many who post on this blog have a fundamental philosophical objection with the exercise of governement power beyond the most basic areas. It is a fair concern.

    The issue we face today however, is slightly more nuanced in my view. Both parties and all branches of government are very guilty, quite recently, of asserting “unbounded” authority. Whether it is the Supreme Court’s decision in Gore v. Bush, Guantanamo, the firing of US attorneys for political reasons, the claiming of executive privilege by WH staff who refuse to even appear before Congressional committees or the passage of retroactive taxes that look very much like ex post facto laws, the number and effect of these naked power assertions appear to be growing.

    That is troubling. While each assertion, standing alone, has constitutional merit, the overall thrust of these assertions undermines the structure of constitutional government as we have known it. The bedrock principle of our form of government and the uniquely American expression of the concept of the rule of law is that no branch of government and no layer of government within the federal system can assert unbounded and exclusive authority in any area. Further, violations of that principle need to have both political and legal ramifications.

    If you’re looking for a threat to liberty at this moment, there it is.

  6. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    One of the few things that give me short- to medium-term hope is that more people, such as yourself, who are not let’s say, “of the classical liberal/libertarian persuasion”, begin to see what’s happening/being allowed to happen and are disturbed by it.

    On the other hand, though, in this “democracy” we’ve been morphed into, there are an awful lot of our fellow citizens who are such net recipients of government stolen and/or borrowed and/or manufactured largess, that not only are they not disturbed by it, they welcome/encourage it. And when the rule of law can ultimately be overruled by the rule of the mob, it’s, sadly, only a matter of time…

  7. Roger Backstrom Says:

    Great stuff and opinions from everyone. I enjoyed the read. But, I am still left wondering what is the solution? Or at the very least what is next? Either way no comfort in the knowledge. Perhaps I, along with many millions of other Americans, just need to focus on who will be the next to be voted off of American Idol.

  8. Timothy Peach Says:

    Why both watching Idol when you can tune in here for riveting episodes of “Libertarian Echo Chamber”?

    It’s a great forum for any opinion, as long as it’s [NWBR]’s.

  9. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    Now Tim, that’s neither fair, nor true… You sound like the liberals whining for equal air-time…

    Folks who tune in to RM can always get a good dose of your individual freedom-countering theocratic socialism… : )

  10. Timothy Peach Says:

    I love polarity! Don’t give me a range of choices… just the endpoints. Thanks.

    • [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

      Tim–you must be joking.

      There are political systems well beyond both classical liberalism/libertarianism AND theocratic socialism…

      Where’s that imagination?

  11. Mark Grannis Says:

    Tim, let’s check to see if there’s something wrong with your computer. What does your screen look like? On mine, the comment section is a big blank rectangle into which you can type whatever you want. From your last comment, I’m a little worried that maybe you’re seeing just a couple of choices and you’re being asked to check one.

    If you’re seeing what I’m seeing, it seems to me you can just type your own opinion instead of bemoaning its absence from the discussion. Is something preventing you from doing that?

  12. Timothy Peach Says:

    I’ve tried that approach. On this particular topic, it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the mono… I mean, dialogue.

    And I’ve kind of lost interesting in the parallel playing dynamic.

    When it is literally impossible that anything that you could say or anything that could occur in reality would change one thunk in the endless drumbeat of dogma that comes back at you on a particular topic — the lack of any real-world verification notwithstanding — then what you have is an echo chamber.

    So why debate with it? Why not just describe what it is… almost like putting a “quicksand” sign next to it so nobody else makes the mistake of stepping in it?

  13. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    Whole-hearted belief in individual liberty vs. the good of the collective, the sanctity of the person vs. the State and the rule of law vs. the dictates of the majority.

    Guilty as charged–on all counts!

    Put up that QUICKSAND sign. Stay away people, lest you fall into such a horrible place as I, never again to know the joy of believing that others can better rule over you than you can yourself or that some group of your brethren can better direct your economy than the “invisible hand” of billions and billions of daily transactions directing the signals of prices… : )

  14. jim walsh Says:

    “C4L”?

    What is this, Boyz II Men?

    I think the movement would have more gravitas if it eschewed that kind of branding.

    • Mark Grannis Says:

      It’s militia-speak, Jim. Is Boyz II Men part of the modern militia movement too (II)?

      • Timothy Peach Says:

        You also might want to consider that “C4” is part of “C4L”, and folks looking for excuses to brand this thing as a gathering of trigger-happy wackos will be reminded of other anti-Statists with explosive personalities. It may also attract some of those types, and you don’t want to have to deal with a Jesse Ventura type getting off the leash like he did in Minnesota.

        The full name of the thing is elegant, and doesn’t take that long to say. I’m with Father Walsh on this one.

  15. Timothy Peach Says:

    The unfair treatment of the dude that was the original point of Granulous’ post cannot be justified, obviously.

    It is true that Ron Paul attracts, among other types, a whole lot of wackos. I keep running into them.

    This doesn’t discredit the guy in and of itself. But it’s not irrelevant.

    I’m still waiting for someone to get back to me with an example in history of laissez-faire capitalism (within a reasonable tolerance) that worked out well

    America is a great argument for the position that capitalism works better than socialism. It is not a valid argument for laissez-faire capitalism vs. anything, since we’ve never had that here.

    • Mark Grannis Says:

      That’s the spirit. Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s somewhere economic, which is not the point of this thread, but I’ll reply briefly.

      The point is not that laissez-faire capitalism beats anything. It is that government interventions in the market as such (for example, subsidies, quotas, and other ways of manipulating price or output) make the market work less effectively than it otherwise would.

      Another Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, recently observed in the New York Review of Books that classical economics is not inconsistent with all government activity. His examples included provision of health care and education, and of course most libertarians would contest those examples, but even libertarians want the state to create the minimum conditions necessary for economic flourishing, by defining property rights and punishing fraud and theft. Capitalism may be necessary without being sufficient, and if that’s the case then government’s role is to provide what capitalism presupposes or omits rather than to try to override market outcomes in the market’s own domain.

      I don’t agree with all of Sen’s argument, but I do believe one can coherently favor a social infrastructure that provides help for the sick and the needy, and at the same time oppose massive government transfer payments to banks who bet wrong, or to failing industrial firms.

      • [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

        Here, here Mark–on most…

        But while your thread did not start precisely on economics, it is virtually impossible, I believe, to separate economics out. Without control of money, there is very little ability for a government to control its subjects. So it’s ultimately true–“everything is about money”. But not in the “love of money” sense, but in the sense that money is merely how we exchange our God-given talents/abilities and efforts for things of value from others with different sets of such.

        So what better way to control people but through controlling money. Eliminate specie. Replace it with fiat. Create more and more fiat (while castigating specie as a “barbarous relic”) and giddy-up, you’ve got everybody right where you want ’em. You are all of a sudden flush with moola to exert whatever power you’d like–waging wars externally and (should you be opposed by those who aren’t with the program or merely appear “suspicious”), internally.

        As for “…defining property rights and punishing fraud and theft”, no argument here.

        But as for Sen, no offense to the Laureate but health care and education??? Please… (Sometimes I think these people say this stuff ’cause it’s the thing that everyone expects you to believe.

        But heck, if you didn’t think it was right to steal money from one group of people to throw it at socialist healthcare programs or the NEA to raise good little citizens/minions, you might be accused of being one of those “not irrelevant wackos” who likes/supports Ron Paul… :-)

  16. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    I KNEW you’d be back, Tim–but I never thought it would be so soon…

    And you’re right. Thank God there are no wacko Democrats or Republicans. That too is not irrelevant…

    And we’ve already (recently) been through the fact that there has been no pure laissez-faire capitalism (remember, Rand’s “Capitalism–The Unknown Ideal”?)

    We have in the U.S. been far, far closer than we are today–resulting in the greatest progress that humanity has ever known, the spreading of which has not only permitted the dramatic increase in mankind as a whole, but also their overall standard of living.

    And America’s capitalism has worked in spite of the world-improvers who have tried to stop it. Who knows how much more mankind would benefit today had the would-have-been world not been hampered by those who think they can do a better job than the market.

    As you’ve noted, the pendulum is swinging far from capitalism, towards statism–and the speed of the swing is increasing by the minute. As Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.” (You certainly don’t have to go to Rand for this stuff…) And when you don’t control that force by the rule of law–as he and the other Founders (for the first time in man’s history), valiantly tried, then it will consume you.

    All this ever started out to be for me was a recommendation to just prepare for the inevitable result of the path we’re on. It’s not hard to do and it just could help you and those you’re responsible for. At some point, hopefully the pendulum will swing back and when we’re tired of allowing others to direct and take care of us at the expense of everyone else, we’ll try freedom again…

  17. Timothy Peach Says:

    When were we “far far closer” in the US, [NWBR]? The specific times/places, how long it lasted, what the accomplishments were, what the downside was?

    Anything the tiniest bit specific would be really helpful.

  18. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    OMG!! (no offense to Jim or Boyz II Men…)

    Reminds me of a neighbor (a lifelong ATF man) who during a discussion about the political positions/beliefs of the Founders, asked me, “How do you know?” I knew the conversation either had to end–or it could only really continue after a whole lot of education…

    Having not realized you’ve not studied our history, Tim, this is an answer that’s going to take more time than I’ve got tonight. But in the meantime, why don’t you try working backwards in time–peeling back all the layers of government intervention that have come to us in even just our lifetimes. Go back before the alphabet soup of agencies that have been deemed crucially necessary but never accomplished their purported tasks, let alone down-sized. Go back in time to strip away thousands of pages of the Code of Federal Regulations, before the war on poverty, the new deal and social security, before the 1913 institution of the Federal Reserve and Income Tax…

    And each step back, you will get “far closer”. The cumulative effect will be “far, far closer”. But this will take much more, starting where we appear to be here. So until then…

  19. Timothy Peach Says:

    Great idea! Let’s peel back the layers! Let’s get all antebellum!

    Nothing serves as a better signature for laissez-faire capitalism than finding creative ways to get maximum margins out of labor — tons of productivity with little or no pay and total control! And boy howdy did we get that one right!

    Nothing like hitting the grand continent of Africa — where “survival of the fittest” doesn’t even smack of metaphor — and scooping up as many tribal Africans as you can. After all, who’s around to impose silly regulations on the natural order? They didn’t even have countries then!

    Then we can ship ’em back to LFC Central — the good ol’ USA — where no one in their right mind would try to interfere with free market dynamics with something as metaphysical as “who’s a human being, when you really think about it” — that sort of thing should be left for commencement addresses at erstwhile Catholic universities.

    Talk about profit margins! When you pay someone nothing, they can’t get away, and you reap all the benefits (economic and sexual, mind you, if you’re so inclined), you’ve really got enlightened self-interest in HIGH GEAR!

    And sure, slavery has its drawbacks. But why did we need a Civil War to disturb the free markets? I’m sure market forces would have sorted all the inequities out in what, another 200 or 300 years? We can’t let petty worries about millions and millions of atrocities blind us to the virtues of market dynamics. Economics and morality will align themselves in time. Just you be patient, young Jedi.

    Please, just keep feeding me the nonsense! I gobble it up! I gobble it up like Homer Simpson gobbles up the Devil’s donuts:

    • Mark Grannis Says:

      There are several problems with the slavery argument. For one thing, I think it is fairly well documented that the institution of chattel slavery originated with government-chartered corporations who needed cheap labor to grow sugar for Europe’s coffee, tea, and chocolate. More fundamentally, I think you would be hard pressed to find a libertarian (or anyone else) who thinks a government ought not to prohibit one citizen from using violence against another for the purpose of imposing conditions of involuntary servitude. Part of the “minimum necessary conditions” mentioned above.

      The free market, on the other hand, is what liberated serfs and ended feudalism in response to the successive plagues. Labor was short. Serfs demanded wages, and got them.

      Next.

    • [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

      Tim, Tim, Tim…

      1) You have GOT to calm down. These entries get to the point where I can swear I can see the veins on your head about to burst. It just isn’t that important. Live as a statist. I’ll do my best to live differently. We’ll both be happy. (OK–I’ll be happier, but we’ll still both be happy…)

      2) I know he’s awfully busy trying to deal with this vote counting/election thing, but doesn’t Al Franken have a blog? All things considered, I think you’d be much happier on that one (or someone of a similar ilk). Why put yourself through this, son??

      3) It’s classic. When I finished writing my last entry, before meeting a friend for dinner (Andy Schectman–a great gold dealer in Minneapolis), I jotted down one word on a post-it—SLAVERY. It is THE predictable response of any statist who wants to argue against the Founders and the birth of the idea of the United States. Frankly, it’s ALL they’ve got so they’ve got to go to it–though I have to admit, most people I’ve dealt with wait a lot longer to play their “trump card”. (It’s like many folks you talk to about the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms. Inevitably, backed into a corner on logic, the gun-control advocate comes back with “well, well, what about nuclear weapons? Should anyone be able to have nuclear weapons??” I’ll leave my answer for another day, but why would we abandon the acknowledgement of 99.9999+% good for the .0001-% bad?)

      Yes, slavery was horrible (and still is where it’s blatantly practiced throughout the world). And it was something that the Founders (those that had slaves, as well as the many more that did not) struggled with constantly throughout the creation of this Republic. Jefferson, the classic example of a “dead white guy” slave-holder is especially castigated–and was the least comfortable with his own part in the problem. (And legislation he wrote that would have abolished it missed passing by one vote.) Virtually all the Founders realized that it was but a matter of time that this one abhoration would have to be addressed and could tear apart the Union. Those same Founders realized however that the early pressure on its ending would likely have stopped the great experiment from ever taking place.

      And the institution was brought to us and fueled by a monarchy. And as it did in many other places, it would have ended under its own weight as it was ultimately NOT at all an economic system of labor.

      And nearly 80% of the slaves brought across the Atlantic during the slave trade did NOT go to the colonies/states, but to South and Central America. A fact forgotten or ignored b/c it is nowhere near as relevant to the “idea” of America.

      Yes, the horror that was slavery cannot be denied. But that horror has to be measured against the GOOD that was the very first government in the history of man that put the individual above the collective. (Heck, Tim. God created Lucifer but he did some good stuff too, no??)

      And that difference created the fertile ground in which the seed of mankind’s creativity and abilities flourished. For over 6,000 years prior, man had made scant progress. Famines regularly decimated (or worse) populations. But here, on this continent, for the first time, people said “I am not a slave of the State. I am neither owned nor controlled by any monarch or group. I am free to succeed–OR FAIL–by my own devices.” If you don’t realize the utter miracle of that in human history, you’ve just got a lot of learning to do, in my humble opinion.

      Was it perfect? Utopia?? Certainly not. But it was the first established government that respected first and foremost, the individual–the value of each of God’s creations. No longer could an individual man or woman be made to be fodder for the State or its ruler(s). What could be more Christian a system than one that philosophically holds the sanctity of each one of us above the collective??

      But all this aside, put your trump card back in the deck and get back to the point. Mark has picked up on something that many have covered–the growth of the Leviathan in myriad ways in just the past 100 years. Putting aside Lincoln’s foray into Statism to try to hold the Union together in the war of Northern aggression, our more rapid descent began with the Spanish American War, I believe. With our first push at empire, we go half-way around the world, butcher a few hundred thousand people (mostly Philippinos) and annex countries folks had theretofore hardly heard of.

      Next big foray–the government’s trumped up charges of the “robber barons” and monopolies. Followed by that horrendous year, 1913, with the trifecta of the IRS, the Federal Reserve and, the least known but incredibly important, amendment for the general election of Senators by the people. A short hop, skip and a jump to the war to end all wars and then the Federal-Reserve caused depression–leading to the election of 4-term, near emperor FDR and the beginning of alphabet soup, destruction of specie currency in the U.S. and so on, and so on…

      So you can whine about what the Founders didn’t do all you want. As bad as that may be, what they DID do not only far eclipsed it, I’d argue it laid the groundwork for the inevitable undoing of one of their major mistakes (along with the treatment of the Indians). But the mistakes were a result of human frailties and the times they lived in. The accomplishments were virtually super-human, especially in the context of all of human history till that time. And the growth, the progress and overall well-being of human kind exploded in the envirnonment of freedom that was finally created. Thousands of years of just getting by and slowly increasing our population was, almost magically, reversed. And we went forth and multiplied…

      To me, to hope or work for a world now where we put the collective back in charge is one that by default acknowledges a contempt for God’s creations–you and I and our now 6.5 billion fellow human beings. And it seems specious indeed to use past slavery of some in the past as an excuse to make everyone a slave to their governments today…

      Say hi to Al for me…

  20. Mark Grannis Says:

    I hope someone follows up on the sort of timeline [NWBR] suggests. It would be fascinating. I can think of several useful approaches.

    For starters, we could simply look at the growth of the Code of Federal Regulations. There are currently 50 titles in the CFR, each of them typically spanning many volumes. For example, Title 47, on Telecommunications, consists of five thick volumes with extremely small print. Title 7, Agriculture, takes up 15 volumes. Title 26, Internal Revenue, is 20 volumes. I thought Title 26 would surely take the prize for most voluminous, but I see that Title 40, on Protection of the Environment, takes up 31 volumes, and for all I know there may be others that are even longer. I read recently that the number of pages in the CFR is currently growing at about 75,000 pages per year. That would be pretty strong evidence of creeping statism, except that it’s hard to call that “creeping.” Galloping statism, perhaps.

    Another approach would be to look at various executive branch and independent agencies and see how long they’ve been with us. The Department of Homeland Security was created only in 2003, of course, and while most of DHS came from other places in the government, the 45,000-employee TSA that was the original subject of this thread — remember the original subject of this thread? — wasn’t with us seven years ago. The Department of Education was created in 1980, though to be fair the old Department of Health, Education, and Welfare started in 1953. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970. The Federal Communications Commission dates to 1934 (1927 for its predecessor, the Federal Radio Commission), and the Federal Trade Commission dates to 1914. The Internal Revenue Service has existed in one form or another since 1913, and that is also the year the Department of Labor was created. I won’t bother going through the rest; I think it’s pretty clear that if we go back less than 100 years, we find ourselves without the lion’s share of today’s federal bureaucracy.

    Third, we could chronicle the growth of the federal government by the passage of landmark legislation. Unfortunately, Congress is just too prolific for me to have much of a go at this. Part of the problem is that the vast majority of restrictions contained in federal law get there without anyone thinking too much about them. It’s easy to focus on the major entitlement programs from Social Security in the 1930s to Medicare Part D in the 2000s, with lots more clustered in the 1960s. Likewise with the income tax and the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. The 1980s wave of federal criminal laws pertaining to drugs (complete with mandatory minimum sentencing) were also perceived as a big deal at the time. But we have recently come to understand just how much can turn on the unintended consequences of statutes that seemed pretty tame at the time, like the Community Reinvestment Act, or the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

    Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, we could just take a phenomenological tour through a typical day and try to spot the regulations. I’m guessing my toothpaste and shaving cream are both regulated; I know their marketing and sale is regulated. My gas is taxed and my car is regulated in ways too numerous to count. My particular business is regulated almost entirely at the state rather than federal level, but it’s unusual in that regard, and even I have to comply with ERISA and the often-asinine regulations of the Department of Labor with regard to my firm’s 401(k) plan. Most employers are subject to significant federal restrictions on the ways they hire, fire, pay, schedule, and handle unpaid leave — and that’s if there’s no union. The food I eat all day long is priced not according to the market, but according to a complicated system of price supports that overtly suppress output. I’m not sure which government makes me use toilets that have to be flushed twice, but it sure as hell isn’t a free market outcome. And during homework time, the unfortunate effects of recent federal “improvements” in elementary education have become all too clear. Naturally, if it’s a day when I have to take a train or a plane, the federal government plays an even more prominent role.

    I hasten to say that I’m not anti-government. There are things we need it to do, and they’re mostly right there in the Constitution. But I would venture to say that we could eliminate 95% of the laws on the books and not miss them a bit.

  21. Timothy Peach Says:

    Yeah, and banking deregulation provided a great deal of the fuel that got us into the freaking mess we’re in now. That is indisputable.

    Serfs didn’t free anybody here. Abraham Lincoln and millions of dead soldiers did. And God Bless every one of them. Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre by an actor on Good Friday. The actor was angry at Lincoln’s interference in “Southern affairs”. He was a real laissez-faire kind of guy.

    I am finished with this idiotic debate. The both of you have suffered brain damage at some point. With [NWBR], it appears to have been congenital. Granulous…. much more complicated analysis. I think I left you alone for too long.

    The rest of the world will have to decide for itself. I don’t have any more time for this moronic, reconfiguration-for-every-fact-pattern tripe. A duck is a freaking duck.

    Enjoy your guns, safes, and coins. I’ll stick with my neighbors and the grace of God.

    • Mark Grannis Says:

      Ah. I hadn’t thought about the duck. I was still trying to figure out which Southern government had a better record on slavery than the plantation owners.

    • [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

      I’ve dedicated way to much time on this today,
      Tim, but I just can’t help myself, as I just can’t see what can so cause a lack of acknowledgment of human nature and common sense.

      People who believe that individuals are not slaves are brain damaged or congenitally impaired?? When you can’t argue with logic, personal attacks suffice?? How is this any different from the practices of the best liberals of the day?

      You’ve held out the pronouncements of government leaders as prophet-like and you seem to worship our beneficent elected leaders as some type of messiahs. Then, to top it all off, you say YOU will “stick with [your] neighbors and the grace of God” as though WE don’t get to?? Seriously, Tim, there’s something going on much deeper than a debate over political philosophy. I have not grown any less worried than I started when first drawn to this blog by one of your entries.

      Whatever it is, I hope it gets better for you…

  22. Timothy Peach Says:

    You know what, the brain damage quip wasn’t fair or appropriate. I take it back.

    A better way to think of it is this: you guys are both very unusual computers.

    In Granulous’ case, most of the normal hardware has been removed and replaced with extra memory. So when you use the system, every command results in tons of information being provided. Unfortunately, since there’s no operating system, there no real organizing principle or point to the information. It’s often interesting, and there’s tons of it. The system’s motto is: No answers, just more questions.

    Since the computer has no operating system, it unsurprisingly believes that it’s best to have no operating system — just the free flow of tons of unorganized information. It’s actually a pretty interesting device, and fun to work with sometimes, if you’re in the right mood.

    In [NWBR]’s case, most the internal computer stuff has been removed and replaced with an incredible pinball machine. The computer no longer processes any information, but the display is spectacular, and if you do the right things, the bumpers light up, point values increase, and you can get all sorts of “specials” (extra balls, free games, etc). If you agitate the machine just right, you can set off a Multiball feature, where additional balls (usually in the form of other Chimes) fly around for a bit. They usually drain pretty quickly though.

    The greatest thing about this computer-pinball machine is that the original ball — [NWBR] — NEVER drains. The game goes on as long as you can stand it…. forever if you want it to. I have never seen this kind of potential value in an arcade game before.

    Two genuinely unique creations!

  23. David Fitzgerald Says:

    Despite the motionless horse…

    The trouble with [NWBR] and Mark’s argument about the Founders, in my view, is that it is chock a block with anachronisms. Whatever Samuel Adams was, we can be certain he wasn’t a “libertarian” and never gave a moment’s worry to “statism.”

    Clearly the Founders had strongly developed Enlightenment notions of natural rights inhering in the individual. They read their Locke. However, they also knew that those rights were meaningless unless they were exercised through and protected by a government exercising legitimate authority. They also read their Hobbes.

    The initial umbrage that the colonists took against Britain was that the Crown and later, Parliament refused to recognize their rights as British subjects. These rights were largely procedural, principally a right of consent, through legitimately elected representative institutions, when one’s property or one’s person was infringed upon by the government. Hence, the colonists argued that only their local assemblies, and not a distant and unrepresentative parliament had the right to tax them. Only when it became apparent that it would be impossible to secure these procedural rights within the British Empire did the movement for independence take hold.

    To my knowledge, no Founder ever raised a per se objection to the government taking a citizen’s property or regulating a citizen’s behavior in any respect, so long as such infringement on personal liberty was consented to by the citizen through a legitimately constituted legislative authority and enforced by an executive magistrate acting within the confines of that authority. Note, for example, the strict sumptuary laws throughout the nascent Union, the lack of a Bill of Rights in the Federal constitution, the fierce tariffs and excise battles fought on local and regional lines early in our history and the religious tests for office. Even the slaveholders, until the disastrous Dred Scott decision, based their right to own slaves not, principally, on natural law grounds respecting property, but on the rather less sexy notion that slavery was the “peculiar institution” of the South, rooted in its traditions and its laws and sanctioned by its legislatures and that the distant federal legislature had no authority to exercise legitimate control over that regional institution.

    The point is that national parks, the Federal Reserve, the IRS, Medicare, Social Security, universal health care or even, dare I say it, TARP do not, in themselves, violate any principle of American law. It is the genius of our democratic system that it can adapt to changing times and circumstances and create institutions that respond to those circumstances. The issue for us, as it was for the Founders, is how do we insure that those institutions are not corrupted by special interests that bend legislative will and executive privilege disproportionately in their favor. How do we minimize corrupting and selfish influences within the political system to make sure that our institutions reflect public, rather than purely private, goods?

  24. [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

    I don’t take issue with some of what you say, Dave. But the colonists, then novo citizens of the U.S. never became enamored of Govt authority. Even getting the Constitution to replace the Articles was a difficult, hard-fought process. And even then, with a strong(er) Federal government, the citizens again and again fought any encroachment that smacked of intrusion on their individual liberties–and certainly anything that took “…from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

    But as for your…

    “The point is that national parks, the Federal Reserve, the IRS, Medicare, Social Security, universal health care or even, dare I say it, TARP do not, in themselves, violate any principal of American law. It is the genius of our democratic system that it can adapt to changing times and circumstances and create institutions that respond to those circumstances. The issue for us, as it was for the Founders, is how do we insure that those institutions are not corrupted by special interests that bend legislative will and executive privilege disproportionately in their favor.”

    …well, I respectfully disagree. THE ultimate law of the Founders is the Constitution. The powers enumerated are quite specific and quite limited. Still, not enough for the contemporaries, they insisted on a (pretty redundant in many respects) bill of rights that, especially with the usually now forgotten/avoided 9th and 10th amendments, made it abundantly clear what encroachments would be permitted. But through a couple hundred years of the weakening of those chains of the Constitution, including its weakening by activist, world-improver Courts, we’ve now gotten to the point where, not only are the programs you mention not in “violation” of law, most people actually have been “educated” to believe that they ARE indeed within the principal of American law (and that’s putting aside the important practical issue of whether the federal government can even do ANY of them well). Such is sad beyond measure and patently, IMHO, false. But far worse, as with all “democracies” before us in which the majority learns they can pilfer the treasury for their benefit, it shall be our undoing…

  25. David Fitzgerald Says:

    In some ways, you prove my point. Because human beings are infinitely creative (particulalry those with law degrees) in their ability to parse language, it is far more protective of liberty to read the Constitution as a guarantee of procedural and structural norms which must be respected than as an enumeration of substantive limits on legislation or, even less so, an enshrinement of a particular economic philosophy.

    • [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

      Well, as we’ve beat this nearly to death now…

      I believe interpretation as the former (of your options) leaves gaps that herds of elephants could go (and unfortunately have gone) through.

      AND interpretation as the latter (of your options) is far more in line with what the Founders had in mind, I’d propose. They well knew that what they were doing was unique in history. And all the contemporaries they read (you mentioned Locke and Hobbes but left out Smith and many others) AND THEIR own contemporary writings on what they were doing (e.g., the Federalist papers, various Founders’ letters, journals, etc.) is more than ample proof of same.

      That said, I am NOT an attorney, but would propose that the LAST thing that today’s law schools would want to teach lawyers is limited government and the sanctity of individual liberty. You all (collectively, at least) have a big role to play in the leviathan (just look how many of its members are your brethren…) You can’t be exposed to such clap trap nonsense as the rights of the individual. That might well limit your role… Rather, let the government sponsored/funded educators teach the masses to be good citizens, dutifully paying their taxes and taking the benefits government provides–and let the lawyers be trained to (a) help fill the role of that government, and (b) reinforce that the citizens have been taught correctly–they were/are meant to accept the cradle-to-grave care of their benevolent overseers–because, you see, the Founders always meant for the Constitution to be a “living document”…

      But we can certainly agree to disagree here. Heck, I’m just happy to have a conversation where I’m not consigned to being some type of equipment/device, etc… : )

  26. David Fitzgerald Says:

    Hey [NWBR], came across this little item on hoyasaxa.com that you might enjoy, http://www.hoyasaxa.com/sports/bball.htm.

    Maybe you can partner with the State Dept. to teach the little Albanians and Kosovars how to execute the pick and roll.

    • [Name Withheld by Request] Says:

      I was just thinking–geez, you know the State Department really should be spending more of our money on teaching kids half-way around the world the great benefits of basketball, conflict management and why governments should be spending money on such nonsense…

      Thank God my own alma mater is the mechanism by which such a wonderful thing can occur…


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