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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Study Guide/Handbook on the US Constitution

At the bottom of this newsletter you will see the cover to a new book, “The Handbook for We The People: A Primer on Strict Construction of the Constitution”.   Originally, the book was written with the intent to serve as a study guide to the fundamentals of our Constitution and the principles of the government it created for high school students, but it is an excellent tool for anyone who would like to have an understanding of the original intent of the authors of the Constitution.

The author, a good friend of mine, used several sources in putting this guide together.  The principles covered were based upon the writings of a retired attorney who is a devoted student and lecturer on the Constitution who writes under the pseudonym “Publius Huldah” (whom some of you may be acquainted with) along with writings of the founders including the Federalist Papers and Webster’s 1828 Dictionary which gives the meanings of the words as understood at the time of the writing of the Constitution.

The book is an easy read and contains seven chapters.  The first chapter covers the basics of the principles behind the Constitution such as a brief description of Federalism, republican government, etc.  The next three chapters cover in brief the enumerated powers of each of the three branches of government and touches on topics that are much in the news today such as  the major clauses of governmental power (Welfare, Commerce, Necessary and Proper) and how they were intended to be understood by the founders.

Chapter six builds upon the principle of federalism and republicanism and delves into the topic of nullification – a tool, as explained in the chapter, the founders put in place for the states to use in keeping  the federal government within its constitutional boundaries.  Chapter seven focuses on the issue hotly debated today in regards to the relationship between religion and the state.  The final chapter covers the concept of making amendments to the Constitution, including a brief look at the idea of what some are calling an “Article V Convention of the States”.

At the end of each chapter there is a list of questions and assignments to encourage the reader to delve deeper into the subject matter presented in the chapter.  In the appendix is a list of references such as the text of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and a glossary of terms that are critical to understanding the original intent of our founders.

The prophet Hosea of ancient Israel, speaking for the Lord, declared “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.”  It is the intent of this book to help our youth, citizens, and yes, even government officials at all levels, gain a basic knowledge so as to keep our republic from being destroyed.  I highly recommend the book and would encourage anyone interested to look into it and use it for your children, grandchildren as well as any teachers and government officials you can convince to read it.

As a disclaimer, I did help in the early proofing of the book and making suggestions regarding the chapter questions; yet I have no financial interest at stake in the proceeds of the sales.  My only concern is to get an excellent primer into the hands of those who wish to gain a firm grasp of the original intent of our Constitution.

Handbook for We the People

-June 17, 2016

 

 

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Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?

In all the times you’ve sung/heard that last phrase in the first stanza of our national anthem, have you ever given much thought as to why those two concepts are joined together?  Reflecting back upon this past Monday when we remembered those who gave “the last full measure” to procure and secure our freedom, the inextricable connection between them becomes very clear.

We were established to be a land of free citizens through the bravery of a few who sought to make their home in a land of freedom.   When those 56 men in Philadelphia pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor by signing our Declaration of Independence, they were bravely signing their death warrants in the eyes of the British Crown.  It was their burning passion for liberty over their fear of death, as expressed by Patrick Henry, that gave them the courage to sign that document and bequeath to us the freedom we now see slipping from our grasp.

How is it that we sing this phrase and yet no longer act like we mean it or believe it?  Are we a “land of the free”?  Hardly; not like we were in times past nor as we were meant to be.  Are we the “home of the brave”?  For some we are, but not as many as there should be.  We have those among us who are yet brave in the defense of freedom – every man and woman who put on the uniform of our military or local police and emergency service provider can be numbered among those who are “the brave.”

But what about the rest of us?  Why are we allowing those we elect to represent us to create laws that chip away at our freedom without any accountability or repercussion?  Why do we tolerate nameless, faceless, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats to trample our constitutionally-guaranteed liberties with their unconstitutional acts and regulations?  Why do we cower in fear before them when it is they who should cower before us?  Is it because we have become too soft – too afraid to stand up and be counted because we fear becoming like a few brave fellow citizens who have and now languish in jail?

We celebrate two holidays – Memorial Day, in which we somberly reflect upon those brave souls who sacrificed their lives for us, and another, Veterans’ Day, for those who have and currently serve in defense of that freedom.  These men and women bravely left their homes to ensure that our land remains free, and some have returned, not to the embrace of their loved ones, but rather in a flag-draped casket.

So the questions for us are:  “How brave are you?  How brave am I?”  “How deeply do you want to be free?  How deeply do I?”

-June 3, 2016

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What “-ism” Are We?

Our founders championed the political structure of “republicanism”, i.e. a system of government based upon democratically elected representatives who would govern in behalf of those who elected them and to whom they would be accountable for the manner of their governance.  Since then we have seen the rise of socialism and its variants of communism and fascism throughout the world and more alarmingly, our transitioning from the republicanism upon which we were founded to fascism.

This week Michelle Obama demonstrated another “-ism” towards which our country has been lurching for decades – “nannyism”.   One of the actions advocated by the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign was an overhaul of the nutrition labels on food packaging.  These updates that she will be announcing were recently finalized by the Food and Drug Administration (another agency without authority granted to the federal government among the enumerated powers in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution).  It is not the government’s role to tell companies what and how they must label their products – that is the role of consumers in the marketplace who can bring pressure on companies to do so or, if necessary, by the states.

Furthermore, as is usual with governmental regulations, it will only place more burdens on businesses, the cost of which will ultimately be borne by us, the consumers as all such costs are.  According to industry estimates, it will cost companies at least $640 million to make the updates, with a net social cost of at least $1.4 billion.

The question to be asked is “Will this be an improvement or just more government heavy-handedness?”  A number of scientists are going on record that these new guidelines are not based upon sound science.  A dozen scientists have signed a joint letter stating that the new requirements are misleading.   Among those signing this letter are Roger Clemens, a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and Eric Decker, head of the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts.  They further state that these regulations are based upon the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, which were formulated by a committee that did not include even one expert on sugars; yet the first lady boasts that the most important change in these regulations is information about sugar content!

So as with most other similar government regulations, they are outside the scope of the role and authority of government as well as being inaccurate, misleading and costly.   But then again, we are too stupid to know better than to consume an entire bag of Oreos, so we need the government to tell us.

-May 27, 2016

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Government Intervention into Labor Relations

The Department of Labor has announced new regulations redefining the classification of workers who will be entitled by law to overtime compensation and the salary levels below which workers must be reclassified.  As with all such interventions by government, there are issues to be taken with this one on many levels.

First is the existence of a Department of Labor which is tasked with regulating labor relations within our economy.  Nowhere in the enumerated powers of the US Constitution is the government granted the power to create such laws and regulations.  We claim to have a “free marketplace”, but it is only lip service; in fact it is, by the definition of Fascism economics, a Fascist marketplace.  As Ayn Rand put it, “…a system in which the government does not nationalize the means of production, but assumes total control over the economy is fascism.”  This is the very description of the direction our government has been heading for decades, and is only picking up steam with such encroachments into business practices such as this.

Second, as with most, if not all, governmental encroachments into labor matters, the opposite end of what is desired is what is achieved.  For example, consider Milton Friedman’s excoriating of the idea of a minimum wage (which is making the headlines nowadays):  “Minimum wage laws are about as clear a case as one can find of a measure of the effects of which are precisely the opposite of those intended by the men of good will who support it.  Many proponents of minimum wage laws…hope, by outlawing wage rates below some specified level, to reduce poverty.  In fact, insofar as minimum wage laws have any effect at all, their effect is clearly to increase poverty…The effect of the minimum wage is therefore to make unemployment higher than it otherwise would be.”

 The consequences of this latest regulation will be no different from what Friedman stated about the effect of the minimum wage.  Are there occupations where individuals are being taken advantage of by companies that this regulation is intended to help?  Most definitely.  However the solution is not the heavy hand of government interference, but rather the power of the marketplace.  When enough people refuse to perform certain kinds of jobs for the wages offered, companies will be forced to raise the salaries and/or benefit packages to attract the quality of employees they seek.  As one who has earned professional certifications in the field of compensation I can attest that market forces are extremely forceful in determining compensation levels.

In Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, those who worked all day were paid the same wages as those who only worked a small portion of the day.  When they complained because they had worked longer than the others, the owner said “Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go.”  If we accept a position in exchange for a certain amount of compensation, then that is our decision; it is we who made the agreement and if we don’t like it, then either don’t accept the offer or stay in that position while seeking better employment.  I have done this more than once in my career.  It is not the function of government to improve our situation in life; it can only make life more difficult when it goes beyond the purpose for which it was created.

-May 20, 2016

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The Two Ends of Tyranny’s Spectrum

When we think of tyranny it is usually pictured in the form of a despot such as the emperors of ancient  Rome or our modern-day want-to-be emperors such as Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jung-un, etc.  When we look at our current system of government we could also add unelected bureaucrats who populate such agencies as the EPA, BLM, IRS, et al.

As you examine these various avenues through which tyranny can and has manifested itself, there is a continuum on which all of these forms fall.  At the each end of it are two extremes that are manifesting themselves in America today.

On one end you have “democracy” – the rule of the majority.  Our founding fathers rejected pure democracy on several grounds.   Madison set forth the case in The Federalist No. 10 that democracy ultimately devolves into “spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property;”  In such a society those in the minority are unprotected from the abuse and oppression by the majority.  Today, as more and more individuals become dependent upon government for their sustenance, and more immigrants, both legal and especially illegal, are allowed into America and have no intention of assimilating the principles of “Americanism”, they will use government to oppress those who strive to adhere to those principles of individualism and limited government.  Such a danger was expressed again by Madison in a letter to Thomas Jefferson on October 17, 1788:

“Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is cheifly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”

 On the opposite end is the tyranny of the minority.  This is becoming more prevalent today.  The Occupy Wall Street hooligans chanted “This is what democracy looks like”, but such could not have been further from the truth.  They were what anarchy looks like; they were an expression of attempted tyranny by a minority.  Most recently we see those who can’t figure out what gender they are demanding access to restrooms and locker rooms corresponding  to the gender they think they are because to not do so makes them feel uncomfortable.  They are a tiny minority in our society yet governments, companies and schools are caving in to this minority even though it makes those in the majority feel uncomfortable.  Such capitulations as these (and others in the news) are the submission of the majority to the tyranny of the minority.

Regardless of whether we are speaking of the tyranny of one individual, a particular political party or group of government officials, a majority or a minority within a society, it is still tyranny, and in none of these cases can the inalienable right of individual liberty be realized.

-May 13, 2016

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The Political “Football” of Social Security

There are many things that I’ve come to find hard to believe, but I was squarely confronted with another one this past week when my wife and I attended a two evening seminar on filing for Social Security and Medicare benefits.  I’m not supposed to be old enough to be concerned with this issue yet there I sat!  However, I did learn just how convoluted this entire setup is and how it is not hard to believe how these programs will destroy our country if they are not addressed and dealt with.  Discounting the fact for the moment that such systems are not within the purview of government and outside the its Constitutional authority, we are in too deep to terminate them cold turkey; but we as a country must understand the truth behind them and wean ourselves off of them over the next few generations.

There are several myths about social security that have become ingrained in our social conscious.  First is the idea that it was designed to be a pension plan for retirement; that was the bogus lie used to “sell” the concept to the populace in 1937.  Yet when the Supreme Court stuck the law down as unconstitutional, FDR’s attorneys argued that it was really just a general tax and so it was allowed to stand.

A second myth is that the monies contributed are “held” in a trust fund for us.  There is no social security trust fund as the monies withheld from our paychecks and matched by our employers has gone into the general treasury and been spent.

A result of this first myth is the common attitude among retirees and those like myself who are closing in on that mile marker that those monies are “my money – I’m entitled to it because I paid into this plan.”  Again, that is based upon the belief that Social Security was intended to be a pension plan, which behind the scenes it was not.  Want proof?  When the law went into effect, the average lifespan for the most Americans was 64 years of age; the retirement age to collect Social Security benefits – 65 years of age!  The government was betting that for the most part, it would collect more in taxes than it would have to pay out because most would die before collecting their benefits!  Such is the cynical tyranny of socialist governments.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2015 Social Security benefits amounted to 24% of the federal budget.  Medicare, Medicaid and other similar insurance programs added another 25%.  A grab bag of other safety net programs took up yet another 10%.  The problem – these percentages are only growing exponentially at a rapidly increasing rate.  Witness how the projected date by government economists as to when these systems will be “broke” is a target constantly being updated to a date closer and closer to our immediate future.

I hope that my health will permit me to work for many more years so that I will be able to forego my benefits and do a small part of saving the financial future of my children and grandchildren, but who knows what the future may hold?  This one thing I do know will hold – these programs are not sustainable and our politicians must put our future ahead of their political futures by addressing this looming time bomb.  John Taylor said it well in regards to pension and welfare programs which had already started in the early 1800s’:

“That the error of trusting republican governments with this tyrannical power [i.e., creating pension and welfare programs], has probably caused their premature deaths, because they are most likely to push it to excess”  (Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated, p. 341, published 1820).

-April 29, 2016

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Declaration of Independence – Ignored Warnings

All patriots are acquainted with the opening phrase of the second paragraph of our Declaration of Independence.  Yet I fear that too many have never taken the time to read and/or study the entire Declaration and the complaints lodged within it against the tyranny of King George III.

One thing I am certain of – those in our government most certainly are not familiar with it, for if they were, they would heed the warnings within it and change the way in which they are exercising similar tyranny over us today.

Consider these four complaints stated by Jefferson – complaints you will readily see should serve as a warning to those in our government today.

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

Does this not reflect the myriad of government agencies that have proliferated over the decades that are suffocating our freedom and liberties with endless regulations and oppressions?  Think IRS, BLM and the EPA just to list a few.

“He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:”

Madison and others of our founders argued strenuously that the federal government’s powers were to be “few and defined”, whereas those left to the states would be “numerous and indefinite” (Federalist 45).  Yet we see Congress, the executive branch with all its agencies, and the federal courts constantly and repeatedly overstepping their constitutional authority and subjecting the citizens of the several states to purported “laws” that are contrary to the constitutions adopted by the citizens of their respective states.

“For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:”

You can scarcely find a more obtrusive and anti-freedom tax system than what we currently suffer under.  Yet when we petition our representatives for relief, they talk much but deliver only more oppression  – or if nothing else, stand idly by while the IRS runs roughshod over us.

“We have warned them [those in the English government] from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.”

 This statement, near the end of the Declaration, sums up the warning we are giving those in our government.  There is a tsunami of anger and frustration rising up all across the land and for the same reasons as in the days of our forefathers.  We all know how that matter was resolved:

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute New Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

 Yes, those who govern us would do well to revisit our Declaration of Independence and give heed to the message and warnings it contains.

-April 15, 2016

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What Happens If You Don’t…

Pay your property taxes?  Pay your income taxes?  Comply with any EPA regulations regarding the use of your property?  Comply with a multitude of local zoning ordinances or permits in regards to your property?  We all know the answer to these questions as we’ve either experienced the consequences or know someone who has – the government, be it local, state and/or federal, swoops in and takes your property from you, fines you and perhaps even takes away your freedom by imprisoning you.

Does this sound like a government described by Patrick Henry during the Virginia ratification convention in 1788:  “for liberty ought to be the direct end of your Government”?  My question hardly needs a response.

John Taylor, one of the most eloquent and ardent defenders among our founders of individual liberty and limited government, had this to say on the matter of property and individual rights:

“The restrictions as to taxing property, imposed upon both the federal and state governments, also recognize only a limited power over it in either; and as to the application of taxes, it is,…expressly limited to the execution of the powers delegated, for which purpose and no other the power of taxation was bestowed.  Among the powers delegated, there is none to grant pensions, or to dispose of the public money according to the dictates of caprice, or benevolence,…

Societies are not instituted for the purpose of enabling governments to destroy natural rights; and as no man possesses a natural, or necessary, or convenient  power over the natural rights of another, a majority of men cannot have a right to surrender to a government an absolute power over these natural rights…the freedom of conscience and of labour are essentially natural rights…Neither nature, nor necessity, nor convenience, has invested the people, or their representatives, with an absolute power over private property, or over conscience;…” (Construction Construed, and Constitutions Vindicated, 1820, p. 276)

Let those words of wisdom from almost 200 years ago sink in.  Have we not done what Taylor said we have no right to do, namely surrendered our natural rights to a capricious government?  It is unfortunate that we cannot require all of these young people thronging to Bernie Sanders rallies to read Taylor’s writings before being allowed to vote.  Matter of fact, maybe it would help if all Americans were to read the wisdom of our founders before they cast their votes; maybe then we could elect men and women who would see to it that our government met Patrick Henry’s stated purpose of government.

-April 8, 2016

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