This Land’s NOT Your Land, This Land’s NOT My Land…

I remember singing “This land is your land, this land is my land”  in elementary music classes, but my how the sentiment has changed from “is” to “not”!  We have witnessed some startling developments as related to our Constitutional rights this past week in the confrontation between rancher Cliven Bundy and the Federal Department of the Bureau of Land Management.  You can read the news stories and blog essays about what happened there but I want to take a few paragraphs to delve below the surface of these events.

(As an aside, in the standoff between armed citizens and those armed members of this government agency, we have witnessed the precise reason why we have the second amendment right to bear arms – to resist the tyrannical overreach of the central government as well as the further trampling upon our Constitutional right of free speech when these government agents limited such speech to only certain restricted areas.)

There are some basic Constitutionally-related issues that need to be addressed.  First, who controls the land that is in dispute, and the corollary to it, who should control that land, Nevada or Washington DC?  Second, should any government entity control the land to begin with?  Third, if the land is “owned” by the state of Nevada, under what Constitutional authority does the federal government have in interfering with how the land is used?

Let us begin by turning to our Constitution and reading what properties it authorizes the general government to “own”.  Article I Section 8 lists the “enumerated powers” of the general government, and within those powers are given the kinds of properties it may possess:  (1) Post offices and post roads, (2) the District of the seat of the government, (3) Forts, (4) Magazines,  (5) Arsenals, (6) Dockyards, and (7) other “needful” buildings.  All of these properties were to be purchased by the general government upon the consent of legislature of the state from which the property was to be acquired.  The Union of the States did acquire property by other means, namely purchasing land from foreign countries (e.g., the “Louisiana Purchase”, Alaska) or as a result of war (Arizona, New Mexico, California, etc).  However, once these territories were divided into states, those states became as much a sovereign entity as the original thirteen.  Further, Article IV, Section 3 states that Congress shall have the power to either dispose of its territory or property as well as “make all needful Rules and Regulations” regarding said territory.

The general government owns approximately 85% of the state of Nevada, which pretty much destroys any notion of state sovereignty as far as the citizens of Nevada are concerned.  There is a dispute in this case as to whether or not the grazing range used by Mr. Bundy is federal or, as he alleges, land properly belonging to Nevada.  It appears that the property is technically federal land.  So the question is, does the property in Nevada at the heart of the dispute fall into any of those seven categories of property listed in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, and if not, then even though Nevada may have at some point ceded the land to the general government, such would be an unconstitutional exchange.  The federal government has no business being in possession of that land.  It should belong to the citizens of Nevada to either sell to private individuals/companies or lease to ranchers such as Mr. Bundy.

Therefore, since the “federal” government has no constitutional right to own that land, the land should revert back to the state of Nevada, and as Nevada is a sovereign entity, the “federal” government has no right to interfere in how the land is used.  This is why I advocate for the return of all lands and property currently owned by the general government that do not fall within those above listed categories of the Constitution back to the states wherein such property is located.

-April 23, 2014

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“I’m From the Government…

…and I’m here to help” – the nine most terrifying words in the English language according to Ronald Reagan.  We laugh, but painfully because we know deep down it’s true.  But why?  The answer is the law of unintended consequences.

Our founders crafted the Constitution as  a means of limiting the size, scope and  role of the federal government in our lives.  Yet practically, if indeed not all, of the ills besetting us can be traced back to the point at which the federal government has exceeded the boundaries of its constitutional authority.

The most recent case in point:  the flood victims of Louisiana.  Tens of thousands of families have been displaced, their homes destroyed  and their lives turned inside out.  These families face the challenge of trying to re-build without any insurance funds to cover the costs, leaving them in dire straits.  Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President places the blame on the bogus notion of man-made “climate change.”  Some may blame the Army Corps of Engineers for not properly building dykes and levees, while others may even blame God.

The fault, however, can squarely be placed at the feet of the federal government.  One government agency that provides flood insurance will only do so to those living in what has been declared by the government to be a flood plain.  However, another agency told many families that they did not live in a flood plain, and therefore they were not eligible for federally-provided flood insurance.  Had that not been the determination, then many might have applied for the insurance and thus had some protection since private insurance firms refused to offer flood insurance in that general region as the federal government was doing so.

Here then is the result of the law of unintended consequences.  Those in government felt that it was the “right thing to do” to offer folks this insurance, and in so doing make themselves feel they had performed the function to which government was created.  Yet because government stepped in and determined some to be eligible and others not, many are now facing ruined lives.

To begin with, it is not the government’s role to provide insurance – it is not one of the limited, enumerated powers granted it by the Constitution.  Second, by stepping outside its limitations, it provided a false sense of security to those living in the affected areas who were told they had no need of the coverage.  Third, and this is the ultimate unintended consequence of government’s overstepping, it indirectly encourages individuals and companies to take risks they otherwise would not take.  If you have the guarantee of government backing that you will be provided the money to rebuild your home, business, etc, then you might risk living in an area such as what would otherwise be a place you would avoid.

We saw the same thing in the bailouts a few years ago when banks and investment houses were “saved” by government handouts because they were “too big to fail.”  Why did the housing market collapse?  In a nutshell, it was government interference in the marketplace and its encouraging, and in some instances coercing, banks to make risky loans they would not have made in times past.  Again, the lives of countless individuals were adversely affected, and in the end, we all were as the national debt swelled as a result.  There are so many other examples they could comprise a book instead of a short essay.

I am not saying those affected in Louisiana are not to be helped, but if the government didn’t take so much of our money in taxes for unconstitutional purposes, private citizens would have more funds available to donate as they are doing and the government would not be needed.

President Reagan was right; he also warned that whenever we hear those “nine most dangerous words”, the safest thing we can do is run.  This we must do – run back to our constitutional roots of a limited government, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, that is bound down by the chains of that precious document so that we can escape these kind of negative, unintended consequences.

-August 26, 2016

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America’s Greatness – Who and How?

As I set forth in my previous essay (America’s Greatness – Past, Present or Future),  a case can be made that our greatness as a country has slipped a few notches and is in need of being “made great again.”  So who will effect this resurgence and how will it be achieved?  To answer that question we must turn to our past and answer the underlying question of “Who made America great to begin with and how did they do it?’

Some might argue that it was our “founding fathers”  who made us great by giving us the greatest system of government ever devised to procure and protect the freedom and liberty of a country’s citizenry.  As great as these men were and the fact that never again in history have such a gathering of political genius been assembled, they did not make us great – they only provided the opportunity to make America great.  Nor did the Constitution, as great as that document is, make us great – it merely provided the framework for a government that would allow greatness to flourish.

Someone else might point to our past military prowess and submit that as the source and means of our greatness.  Yet that has been the means by which oppressive empires of history have achieved  so-called greatness.  We were established to be a free people, intent on pursing life, liberty and happiness and not the conquest and subjugation of others.  Another might point to our economic engine, or our technology or any other of a number of our achievements as a people.  However, none of these provide the real answer.

To find the answer we need look no further than our own reflections in our mirrors.  It was “We the People of the United States,”  who set out  “to form a more perfect Union.”  It was the farmers and merchants who left their farms and businesses to shoulder a musket to fight for the principle of liberty in our War of Independence.  It was the hardy men and women who braved the hardships of the ever-expanding western frontier from the original thirteen states to the Pacific Ocean to settle and tame a continent.  It was those who went to  war, brother against brother, to fight for the ideals of our Declaration of Independence.  It was those souls who came to our shores, those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free, who left behind their ancient ancestral ties to forge a new identity as “Americans.”  It was our parents and grandparents, those of “the greatest generation”,  who came through the multiple adversities of economic depression and world wars.  All of these who came before us are who forged the idea of American exceptionalism and elevated America to a status above all other nations in history.

So what happened?  I remember as a boy such phrases as “American ‘Can-Do’ attitude”, “American rugged individualism”, “American ingenuity”, “the American Spirit”, and so forth.  I remember the attitude manifested in us that the surest way to get an American to accomplish something was to tell him/her that it couldn’t be done, because such a challenge would immediately be met with the retort “Oh yeah?  Well watch this!”,  and  the task would quickly be mastered.  In short, we’ve forgotten who we are (or better, were).  We’ve allowed these traits that were passed on and instilled within each generation to die away.  We’ve lost the passion to be a free and independent people.  Our rich history has been watered down and not taught to our children and grandchildren who are no longer challenged to shoot for the moon as President Kennedy challenged us in 1961.

If America is to be made great again, even greater than it was before, it is up to you and me.  We must look back at our ancestors, follow their example, believe in the principles of individual responsibility, self-determination and respect for life, liberty and property.  In short, we must become one people, bound together by a common language, a common purpose, a common belief in ourselves as a people and a common passion for freedom.  Only then will America be great again.

-August 19, 2016

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America’s Greatness – Past, Present or Future?

In this election cycle, Donald Trump’s campaign slogan has been “Make America Great Again” – an implication which portrays an America that was great but is no longer.  Countering that, Hillary Clinton has proclaimed that “America is Great”, meaning there has been no loss of America’s “greatness”.

So the question posed to voters in this upcoming election is, “Who’s vision of America is accurate?”  The answer lies in the follow up question, “What do you mean by ‘greatness’?”  To resolve this issue, all we need do is examine our present condition and ask if that condition fits how you would define “greatness.”

In approaching this matter I was drawn back to the Roman Empire, which by all accounts possessed “greatness.”  What were some of the things that Rome was noted for that amounted to its “greatness”?  There was the Pax Romana, paved stone roads that linked all parts of the empire together, a common language for government (Latin),  emphasis on architectural achievements and engineering feats, literature and the advancement of the sciences, a strong army and navy, a high price placed upon citizenship and much more.  In looking at our past, we could say that America also possessed these same qualities as well; the debate is whether or not we still do.

If you believe that a government should give you cradle-to-grave care at the expense of the whole of society, then you might think we are presently “great.”  If you believe that leaders are exempt from the same judgment under the law that other citizens would be, then you might think we are presently “great.”  If you believe that the government should set the educational standards and water them down so that all students “pass” whether or not they learn the material, then you might think we are presently “great.”  If you believe we should not project a strong military presence on the world stage so that the other nations will “like” us better, then you might think we are presently “great.”  If you believe we should not insist that those who come to our shores learn our historical tongue and assimilate into becoming “American”,  but instead maintain the language of and allegiance to their mother country instead of America, you might think we are presently “great.”   If you believe the loss of individual freedom and liberties to an ever-growing centralized government is a good pathway, then you might think we are presently “great.”

On the other hand, if you believe that we have ceased to be a land where all are equal under the law and that the powerful and influential should not be given special treatment, then you might think America needs to be made “great again.”  If you believe that we have lost our competitive edge in science and technology and must import skilled and knowledgeable people from other countries because our educational system has become a dismal failure, then you might think America needs to be made “great again.”  If you believe that the reduction of our military to a mere shadow of what it was when America was respected by its allies and feared by its enemies, then you might think America needs to be made “great again.”  If you believe our open border and non-assimilation policies have destroyed what it means to “be American”, then you might think America needs to be made “great again.”  And if you believe that our individual freedom and liberties are being stripped from us so that we can no longer live a life of self-determination, then you might think America needs to be made “great again.”

There’s many more of these “Jeff Foxworthy” type of questions we could play, but I think these sum up the two pictures well enough.  I happen to believe America falls into that second category, and so the obvious follow up is, “Who made America great to begin with, and how do we get back to that position of greatness?”  I’ll broach this topic in a follow up essay.

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