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We Can Trust Us November 25, 2011

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Listening to the lies of the politicians as presented by the prattle of the biased it is easy to lose hope in a secular sense.  My hope in an eternal sense is founded on the rock of an unshakable faith in Jesus and so it cannot be shaken.  However, in the secular resting, as it must upon the shifting sands of man in America today, hope as a measured commodity is all too often hopeless.  Seeking for hope in current events, a diamond among the discards and a point of light in a sea of darkness, is seeking something positive among the gathering gloom of an empire in eclipse.

I don’t know about you but I cannot focus on the negative trends of our current situation for long without at least contemplating depression and I don’t mean the economic kind.  I am thankful I have a peace that passes all understanding and a hope that cannot be taken away, and I am also glad that I have a sense of History which gives me a context to frame the Now.  For if all we have is the Now it can always be changed with the next headline, the next news bulletin or the next press release.  Having a historical context brings things into focus fitting the events of today into flow of time from yesterday to tomorrow.

Truth often becomes the victim of expediency.  For what seems true at the moment may end up as the lie of the hour.  Politicians bend truth like gravity bends light: the heavier the perceived need the greater the unperceived distortion.  Lies can become so widely believed that truth is swallowed in truism. As lies become the accepted wisdom of professional pundits chattering endlessly supporting that which ultimately must fall for those who seek to surf a tsunami into a safe harbor.  The news is filled with half-truths and as my second favorite philosopher, Anonymous once said, “Beware of half-truths, you may have gotten the wrong half.”

We live in a twilight time.  Twilight by definition is a time when two sources of light pierce the gloom, that quivering moment when both the sun and the moon hold back the darkness.  The darkness of confusion is dispelled by the brightness of the sun of truth but it is disputed by refracted light of the moon of opinion masquerading as truth.

Casting about for something solid in the midst of the swirling fog of conflicting facts, shifting observations, and contradictory visions in the secular sense I must focus on one thing: the people.  I trust the American people.  I trust them to make the right choice when presented with unvarnished reality.  I trust them to do what must be done to preserve the bequest of our forefathers for the inheritance of our posterity.

The Declaration of Independence was written to proclaim the righteousness of the actions of “One people” with the courage to declare to a world sold into bondage that our liberty was founded upon truth. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We the People wrote the Constitution in order to perfect that which had been founded upon the truth.  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It is to this one people, this “We the people” that I look for secular hope, political peace, and the eventual solution to our current cultural conundrum. The popular definition of a conundrum is a problem without a solution.  However it also has another meaning, a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun.  Since I am referring to the second meaning I will present the riddle, “How is liberalism the solution to the problem of liberalism?”

In our through-the-looking-glass world politicians use actual truth to obscure the obvious truth.  Congressman Joe Early (D-Mass) at a press conference to answer questions about the House Bank scandal said, “They gave me a book of checks. They didn’t ask for any deposits.”  While I’m sure it is true he was given a book of checks, obviously one needs to make deposits if one is to honestly write checks.  In this same manner the leaders of our free country promote socialism as the solution to the problems socialism has caused knowing that you cannot honestly write checks if you don’t make deposits.  Capitalism makes the deposits and socialism wants to write the checks.  As Churchill said “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

We are awash in polls.  Every campaign and every major news source constantly trumpet polls many of which contradict each other.  No matter what the polls say I believe that the American people still believe in freedom.  I believe they still believe in the equality of opportunity and the opportunity of equality.  We all aren’t the same.  Each of us is born with a particular set of talents and each of us uses those talents in a certain way.  It is my belief, that given the level playing field of individual liberty and economic freedom, the vast majority of Americans will work hard to earn what they deserve.  This is my secular hope. Heaven on earth is not possible but given individual liberty and economic freedom inherently promised in the perfect union we the people sought to create we can at least avoid remaining in the hell of socialism the Progressives are currently foisting upon us, and as Churchill also said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Oh, by the way, the answer to the riddle is that Classical Liberalism promotes the general welfare by promoting the limitation of government and the liberty of the individual in order to better serve the whole. Welfare Liberalism erodes the general welfare by expanding the government at the expense of the individual in order to better serve the individual.  Thus Classical Liberalism is the solution to the problems caused by Welfare Liberalism.  And that’s the truth which brings me to one last Churchill quote for the day, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. Ignorance may deride it. But in the end, there it is.”

Don’t be discouraged by the blather of the pontificating politicians or confused by the conflicting ruminations of the professional talkers. When all is said and done we can trust us.  We the people will eventually come down on the side of truth, justice, and the American way.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

 

Where Did This Debt Come From Anyhow? September 23, 2011

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Have you ever wondered where the National Debt came from?  Do you wonder who started it?  Do you ask yourself is the National Debt constitutional? I believe that a lack of Historical knowledge and context is a major contributing factor in our current state of political deterioration.  Unless we know where we came from we cannot truly appreciate where we are and we have no point of reference to guide us to where we want to go.

The National Debt didn’t start under Barak Obama or George Bush.  It didn’t start under FDR or Wilson or Lincoln.  So where did it come from and when did it start?

The National Debt and the economic outlook inherent in its creation have not only been with us since the beginning it was one of the most powerful arguments for the ratification of the Constitution.  I may have just lost many of the recently awakened.  I most assuredly lost those who worship the Constitution as American Scripture and the Framers as demigods who brought the tablets down from on high.

Don’t misunderstand the intent of the following article.  It is not to malign the Constitution.  I believe it is the greatest political document to come from the hand of man.  I have spent a life time testifying to its importance and working to educate people as to its continued relevance.  However I also believe we need to know the History of its development, ratification and the continuing saga of its effectiveness.  If we don’t learn from History we will be forced to learn from our own mistakes.  It’s always less painful to learn from the mistakes of others.

At the turn of the twentieth century Historian Charles Beard published An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States and set off a debate that still rages around the idea that the Constitution was a the product of a conflict between competing economic interests.  The argument goes like this: the Founders, who supported a strong, centralized government and favored the Constitution during its drafting and ratification, were men whose primary economic interests were marked by extensive personal property. They consisted primarily of people involved in commerce such as merchants, shippers, bankers, speculators, private and public securities holders, southern planters and all they could influence. Those who opposed the ratification of the Constitution were supporters of a decentralized government such as already existed under the Articles of Confederation.  These were people whose economic interests were connected to real estate.  They consisted primarily of isolated, subsistence non-commercial farmers and laborers, people who were often also debtors, and the people they could influence.  This article fits into that debate.

Building within the above outlined framework, although James Madison is generally called the Father of the Constitution when it comes to economic concerns I believe the title should belong to Alexander Hamilton.

When the Annapolis Convention which was called in September, 1786  to deal with economic concerns failed to attract enough state delegations for a quorum Hamilton requested permission from the Congress of the Confederation to call another convention in Philadelphia for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation.  Once they closed the doors though they had no authority. The delegates from the twelve states attending wrote a new constitution. Then ignoring the provision of the Articles which required unanimous consent to alter the nature of the American government the Framers sent the Constitution out to be ratified by special ratification conventions by-passing the State legislatures.

Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies.  By the time he was fifteen his father was bankrupt.  At sixteen he moved to New York and went to work in an accountant’s office.  He was a self-made man who put himself through Columbia University and personally raised artillery regiments for the Revolution.  He spent most of the war as Washington’s top aide.  Hamilton had a desire to create a central government both politically and financially strong.

Once the Constitution was ratified and Washington elected as the first president he chose Hamilton as his Secretary of the Treasury.  Hamilton hit the ground running.  He soon submitted three ground-breaking reports to Congress, one of which impacts the present discussion.

His Report on Public Credit caused controversy because of its social and financial implications.  During the Revolution the Confederation and the individual States had run up large debts to both foreign and domestic individuals.  Hamilton proposed that the Federal Government assume all the war debt of the states which helped the measure gain approval in Congress.  These debts had devalued in worth due to the inflation.  As the debts lost their value they were bought up by speculators at a fraction of their face value.  Hamilton proposed to redeem them at their original value giving tremendous profits to the speculators, many of whom were prominent in Congress and State governments.  The new national government was short on cash, so Hamilton proposed to pay the war debt by issuing interest-bearing bonds, and thus the national debt was born at the dawn of the Republic.  It has existed ever since.  It has never been paid down to zero and it never will be.

Is the national debt constitutional?  Yes, in two ways.  Article VI among other things states, “All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.”  And because the 14th Amendment states, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”  So the Constitution both in its original form and as amended both validates the debt and takes the question of its legality off the table.

Over the hundreds of years since its inception our nation has continuously had a National Debt.  Every President has faced it when they took office and every president has left it for their successor.  Some have reduced it, most have increased it.  At times it has contributed to our strength and stability.  At first by helping to establish the credit of the United States and then by proving the trustworthiness of our government, no one ever doubted redemption.  Today the National Debt soars beyond the perceived ability to redeem.  It races ahead at an average rate of $3.93 billion per day which is $163,750,000 dollars per hour, $2,729,166,666 per minute and, $45,486 per second.  We all know from our personal finances debt in and of itself isn’t a bad thing.  We also know unsustainable debt is.  No one can afford to spend more than they make forever.  Unless of course they have their own printing press then they can do it until no one will accept the paper any more.  Then they will do something else.

Stand by for something else.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens.

 

The Ratification Debate Part Three July 17, 2011

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Concluding my three part series in celebration of our nation’s 235th Birthday, we will look at arguments advanced by both sides.  Last week we ended with the question, who were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists and why does it matter to us today?  This week we will learn the answers to the questions.  Who was debating?  What did they have to say?  Who won?  And, why does it matter to us today?

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are a collection of eighty five essays published in New York newspapers.  They outline how the government, as proposed in the Constitution, would operate and why this highly centralized type of government was the best for the United States of America. All of the essays were signed by “PUBLIUS.” To this day there is some dispute as to who authored some of the articles.  However, after much study the consensus is generally believed that Alexander Hamilton wrote fifty two, James Madison wrote twenty eight, and John Jay wrote five.

Just as in every state, the debate over the ratification of the Constitution was intensely followed by the public in New York. Immediately after the conclusion of the Convention, the Constitution came under intense criticism in many New York newspapers. Echoing the sentiments of several of the prominent men who had been delegates to the Convention some contributors to the newspapers said the Constitution diluted the rights Americans had fought for and won in the recent Revolutionary War.

As one of the leading designers and loudest proponents of the Constitution Alexander Hamilton worried that the document might fail to be ratified in his home state of New York.   Therefore, Hamilton, a well trained and well spoken lawyer, decided to write a series of essays refuting the critics and pointing out how the new Constitution would in fact benefit Americans.  In the Convention Hamilton had been the only New York delegate to sign the Constitution after the other New Yorkers walked out of the Convention, because they felt the document being crafted was injurious to the rights of the people.

Hamilton was in favor of a strong central government having proposed to the Convention a president elected for life that had the power to appoint state governors. Although these autocratic ideas were thankfully left out of the finished document Hamilton knew that the Constitution, as written, was much closer to the kind of government he wanted than the one which then existed under the Articles of Confederation..

Hamilton’s first essay was published October 27, 1787 in the New York Independent Journal signed by “Publius.” At that time the use of pen names was a common practice. Hamilton then recruited James Madison and John Jay to contribute essays that also used the pen name “Publius.”

James Madison, as a delegate from Virginia, took an active role participating as one of the main actors in the debates during the Convention.  In addition he also kept the most detailed set of notes and personally drafted much of the Constitution.

John Jay of New York had not attended the Convention.  He was a well known judge and diplomat.  He was in fact a member of the government under the Articles currently serving as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

“Publius” wrote All eighty five essays that were written and published between October 1787 and August 1788, in newspapers of the state of New York.  But their popularity, readership, and impact were not limited to New York. They were in such great demand that they were soon published in a two volume set.

The Federalist essays, also known as the Federalist Papers, have served two distinct purposes in American history.  Primarily the essays helped persuade the delegates to the New York Ratification Convention to vote for the Constitution.  In later years, The Federalist Papers have helped scholars and other interested people understand what the writers and original supporters of the Constitution sought to establish when they initially drafted and campaigned for ratification.

Knowing that the Federalist Papers were written by such luminaries as Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury; James Madison, the fourth President of the United States; and John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the question asked is, who were these Anti-Federalists who dared speak against the founding of the greatest nation that has ever existed:  Some fringe people who didn’t want the blessing of truth, justice, and the American way?!

The Anti-Federalist Papers

The list of Anti-Federalist leaders included: George Mason, Edmund Randolph, Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and even though he was not in the country at the time, Thomas Jefferson.

There is one major difference between the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers: the former are compact and relatively unified the latter are not really a single series of articles written by a united group with a single purpose as the Federalist Papers were. Instead there were many different authors and they were published all over the country in pamphlets and flyers as well as in newspapers.  Among the many the most important are: John DeWitt- Essays I-III, The Federal Farmer- Letters I and II, Brutus Essays I-XVI, Cato, Letters V and VII.

The first of the Anti-federalist essays was published on October 5, 1787 in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer.  This was followed by many more published throughout the country which charged that any new government formed under the auspices of the Constitution would:

  • Be injurious to the people because it lacked of a bill of rights.
  • Discriminate against the South with regard to navigation legislation.
  • Give the central government the power to levy direct taxation.
  • Lead to the loss of state sovereignty.
  • Represent aristocratic politicians bent on promoting the interests of their own class

The Federalists had the momentum from the beginning.  They were wise enough to appropriate the name Federalist, since federalism was a popular and well understood concept among the general public even though their position was the opposite of what the name implied.  They also had the support of most of the major newspapers and a majority of the leading men of wealth if not of all the original revolutionary patriots.  They also used a tactic of trying to rush the process as much as possible calling for conventions and votes with all dispatch.  And in the end these tactics combined with the great persuasion of the Federalist Letters and the prestige of General Washington carried the day. The Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788.

Although the anti-Federalists lost their struggle against the ratification of the Constitution their spirited defense of individual rights, personal liberty, and their deep-rooted suspicion of a central governmental power became and remain at the core American political values.  Their insistence upon the absolute necessity of the promise of enumerated rights as a prerequisite for ratification established the Bill of Rights as the lasting memorial to their work.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

 

The Ratification Debate Part Two July 8, 2011

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Picking up where I left off in my review of the ratification debate I want to address the question I raised at the end of last week’s essay,What was the problem?”

If the government as established under the Articles had so many successes how did it end up being replaced by the government as established under the Constitution?

There were some perceived and actual weaknesses of the government as established under the Articles of Confederation:

  • The national government was too weak as compared to the State governments.
  • There was only a unicameral legislature and thus there was not a separate executive department to carry out and enforce the acts of Congress.
  •  There was no national court system to interpret the meaning of the laws passed by Congress leaving them open to differing interpretations.
  • .Congress didn’t have the power to levy taxes. It was instead dependent on State donations, which were levied on the basis of the value of land within the various states.
  • Congress did not have the exclusive right to coin money. Each state retained the right to coin money.  Without a uniform monetary system the coins of one state might not be accepted in another, hampering commerce.
  • There was no mechanism to adjudicate disputes between the states.
  • The Individual States were not precluded from having their own foreign policies including the right to make treaties.
  • Each State had one vote in Congress with no respect to size or population.
  • It required nine out of the thirteen states to approve the passage of major laws, approve treaties, or declare war.
  • The amendment process was cumbersome requiring a unanimous vote.

Some of these weaknesses caused actual problems during the Articles short tenure, and some were merely perceived as possible sources of problems in the future.

So how did we get from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution?

It was commerce that proved to be the catalyst for the transition between the Articles and the Constitution.

Disputes concerning navigation on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia led the calling of a conference between five states at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1786.  Alexander Hamilton was one of the delegates.  He successfully convinced the delegates that these issues of commerce were too intertwined with primarily economic and political concerns to be properly addressed by representatives of only five states.  Instead he proposed that all of the states send representatives to a Federal Convention the following year in Philadelphia.  At first Congress was opposed to this plan However, when they learned that Virginia would send George Washington they approved of the meeting.  Elections of delegates were subsequently held in all of the States except Rhode Island which ignored the summons.

The Convention had been authorized by Congress merely to draft proposals for amendments to the Articles of Confederation.  However, as soon as it convened they decided on their own to throw the Articles aside and instead create a completely new form of government.

Was the writing of the Constitution legal?  Who gave the Federal Convention authority to discard the Articles of Confederation which had been duly ratified by all thirteen States?  Was this a counterrevolution?

The answers to these questions have been debated by historians and constitutional scholars for hundreds of years, but in reality the answers are moot.  Whether the Federal Convention had any legal sanction to do what they did doesn’t matter. The action was eventually accepted by the Congress, the ratification conventions were held in the various States, and eventually it was ratified becoming the supreme law of the land.

Now we are ready to look at the Great Debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.

First, what about the terms, “Federalist” and “Anti-Federalist” how appropriate were they during the debate?

New Speak is nothing new in politics, and the concept of words having power to shape reality was not invented by George Orwell.  Look at the original debate of the ratification of the Constitution, and as a consequence how we have studied, learned, and even shaped the debate in this lecture concerning the ratification of the Constitution.

Think about the central term itself. Federalism refers to decentralized government. Those who supported the Constitution, who advocated that it replace the Articles of Confederation, which if nothing else established a decentralized system of government, called themselves “Federalists,” even though they wanted a more centralized government.  This left the supporters of the Articles, who wanted a decentralized government, to be known then and forever as the “Anti-Federalists,” when in fact they were the true Federalists.

So much for the straight forward clarity of Historical fact, everything must be examined and everything interpreted.

In the study of the debate for the ratification of the Constitution a common mistake made is the shallowness of the study.  In a good school the average student will be exposed to perhaps two of the Federalist Letters and none of the Anti-Federalist Letters, which is like trying to understand an answer without knowing what the question was.  In this abbreviated look at the subject we will look at both sides in general seeking instead an overview of the topic leaving the specifics to a personal study, which will without a doubt enrich the understanding of any who find the motivation for such an endeavor.

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers were actually published as newspaper articles for the general public.  This in itself tells us much about the comparative state of public education and awareness between the American general public in the late Eighteenth Century and the early Twenty-first.  When we examine the two sets of papers and dwell upon the vocabulary and the breadth and depth of the philosophical, political, and economical ideas expressed we are immediately struck by the fact that the average person in America today would not be able to understand the sophisticated and specialized vocabulary let alone grasp the ideas.  And yet these were not published in journals for the educated elite. These were published in general circulation newspapers and were actually debated and referenced across the dinner tables and around the workshops of America.

Next week we will look deeper into these two sets of documents that have had such a profound effect upon America and find out exactly who the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were and why does it matter to us today?

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

The Great Civil Debate February 4, 2011

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It is admitted by all except the liberal media and left-wing ideologues jockeying for political and partisan advantage, neither the tenor nor the content of our public discourse had any bearing upon the tragedy in Tucson.  Nevertheless there have been calls for a return to civility in our speech.  I heartily second that motion, believing as I do that civility should always be the hallmark of discussion among ladies and gentleman.  However, that is not the topic of this discourse.

I seek to call my fellow Americans not to a more civil debate but to The Great Civil Debate.  This is the debate we need if we’re to move beyond the gridlock of right versus left, the vitriol of Democrat versus Republican, and the hysteria of a coming conservative authoritarianism or a looming socialist one.  The debate I’m calling for is not an innovation in American History.  Instead it’s a re-play of a previous event and the sequel to our preliminary event: the debate over the ratification of the Constitution.  What we need now is a debate over the relevance of the Constitution with regard to the actions of the Federal Government.

From the day the Constitution was signed, September 17, 1787 to the day it was ratified June 21, 1788, this country rang with the impassioned speeches and stirring essays of both the opponents and the proponents of this our founding document.  Today is the day and now is the time for the debate to once again stir the hearts of the nation, will we have a limited government, personal liberty and free enterprise or are we going to have something else?  There’s no greater admirer of the United States Constitution then the author of this article.  None can be found who gives more veneration to the Framers or who pays more attention to its words.

However, after 222 years there’s no one more convinced that we’ve reached an historical impasse.  The Constitution is still in force.  It has been amended twenty seven times, but it has not been supplanted.  Yet, it’s all but ignored by the Federal Government.  Our continually expanding federal bureaucracy tips its hat to the commerce clause or uses the elastic necessary and proper clause as a political fig leaf to do whatever they want.  This being the current situation this article is in fact an intervention.  It’s well known that until a problem is recognized there’s no hope for a solution.  Therefore, since every other commentator I’m aware of dances around the 800 pound gorilla in the middle of the room, I’ll acknowledge the obvious and take the afore-mentioned primate as my dancing partner and say what must be said: the Constitution has failed.

This is not to say that it is a flawed document, a vehicle for ulterior motives, or that it has always been a failure.  This is not to say that I’m offering or advocating for a replacement.  As I mentioned earlier, there is no greater admirer of the United States Constitution then the author of this article.  What I do mean to say is that this great document which birthed and sustained a limited government for more than two hundred years has now become effectively irrelevant.

The proof for this sad statement can be seen in the unguarded rhetoric of the movers and shakers of our now unlimited government.  When asked where in the Constitution a warrant for mandated health care could be found one congressman answers, “I don’t worry about the Constitution.”  Another congressman says, “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that the federal government has anything to do with most of the stuff we do. It means what we say it means.”  When asked a question about the constitutionality of health care legislation former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s response is, “Are you serious?”

And we have a President who writes that the Constitution is not “…static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.”  No wonder a liberal pundit finds it odd that a candidate for Congress would promise to consider the constitutionality of legislation saying, “that certainly isn’t the job of Congress. They should just pass whatever they want and let the courts worry about it later.”  These examples are joined by volumes of others, which show that not only is the Constitution irrelevant to these leaders it has become so accepted as irrelevant that they no longer even have to pay lip service to the integrity of the document they’ve sworn to uphold and defend.

We need a reset button.  We need to return to limited government.  But how do we get there from here?  The Tenth Amendment which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” has been emasculated through court rulings.  The legal system has moved from original intent to precedent.  From what the words mean to what can we say the words mean.  This tsunami of change is led by the Progressives who believe that we need to evolve past the ideas and procedures devised and set down by the Framers and create a New America. A transformed America founded not on the equality of opportunity but on the equality of outcome.  These big government leaders in both parties seek not mere equal justice for all but social justice, not free enterprise but central planning.

This intervention sadly begins with the assessment based upon the current reality that the Constitution has failed.  However, it ends on a note of hope.  We’re the descendants of the Pioneers, the offspring of the Framers, and we can do this.  We can find a way within the legal framework of the Constitution itself to press that reset button.  We can solve this problem, because we’re Americans and we’re a can-do, get-it-done people.  But if we refuse to admit there’s a problem we’ll be doomed to suffer silently in the shadows as our beloved city on the hill becomes a lost dream in the twilight of freedom.  Instead let’s start The Great Civil Debate. How can we restore limited government, ensure liberty and revitalize free enterprise?  How can we get there from here?  Keep the faith.  Keep the peace.  We shall overcome.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College. He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

 

Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater December 1, 2010

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As America appears to swirl down the drain under the current maladministration, and as the new normal of 9-10% unemployment, crushing debt, and diplomacy by the wiki-wonks compromises our credibility it’s time to recall that there must be limits if there’s to be freedom.  President Obama believes the Constitution is flawed, because it only speaks of “negative” liberties and it merely restrains government instead of empowering it.  This reveals a lack of understanding of the American Experiment that is breath-taking to behold in the man elected to defend the Constitution.

A constitutional novice, let alone a supposed constitutional scholar, should know the reason for a written constitution is to set limits for government so that individual liberty and freedom can bloom.  This has been true since King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta.  It was true when the Miracle at Philadelphia produced the Constitution, and it’s true today.  If government is not limited it is limitless.

What should be taught has not been taught.  What should be known is not known.  And what should be self-evident remains hidden in plain sight: “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  These words ring down the halls of History reverberating in the heart of every Patriot.  Flowing from this same well-spring of wisdom is the reason for the institution of government, the source of the social contract which holds us together as a people: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Two hundred and thirty-four years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great culture war, and testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. These Dispatches from the History of the Future are brought forth on a great battle-field of that war: the media.

The world will little note, nor long remember what is said here, but it will never forget what patriotic authors have done and are doing. It is fitting for we who labor in the field of communications to dedicate our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to the task remaining before us that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Therefore, no matter if a certain Dispatch elicits praise or condemnation, whether it agrees or disagrees with every nuance of each individual it is hoped that positions will be taken in context.  That people will react to articles and not headlines.  To disagree on matters of foreign relations does not distract from our unity of vision that limited government, personal freedom, and individual liberty are the source and the summit of the American Experiment.  Another pearl of wisdom from our forefathers may also be relevant to the necessity of not allowing divisions to divide us, “We must all hang together, or we shall all hang separately.”

A free press and people willing to share their thoughts whether popular or unpopular have long been the bane of tyrants.  Those who seek to order the lives of others and to micromanage the fate of nations cannot abide the literature of liberty or the discourse of free people boldly proclaiming that the government that governs least governs best.  Thus, these Dispatches from the History of the Future have been banned by the editors of the elite from China to Denver.

A quick review of recent history (Germany & Japan) teaches that nations which were once enemies can become friends, and those who were friends (Iran) can become enemies.  This alone should direct us to the wisdom of George Washington, “The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”  To base our future foreign relations upon our past chains us to backward thinking and tunnel vision, two things our current enemies are exploiting on a daily basis.  Please take your shoes off and prepare for the porno scan or grope.

Let us not lose sight of the sacred cause for which we labor: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Let us stand together against the assault upon freedom that is the growth of Progressive government.  The time is fast approaching when no matter how dedicated some may be to America remaining on the beat as the world’s policeman, building nations in our own image and chasing the mirage of security through empire, the burden of garrisons in ninety nations, and wars in several more will compel us to retire to the security of our borders.

This does not mean isolationism for we cannot retreat from commerce.  It does however mean the time has come to once again heed the wisdom of our first President, “Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.  Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?”

The time is also fast approaching when the words of our founders may once again ring clear in a land losing sight of our focus: limited government, liberty, and personal freedom.  A time when the words of Jefferson will once again make tyrants quake, “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.” Let all patriots stand together for truth, justice and the American way.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  Get the latest dispatches from the History of the Future and find books by Dr. Owens @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

 

The Unlimited Blessings of Limited Government June 20, 2010

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The battles were over and the war won now the hardest task of all: how to secure the rights fought for while providing a government strong enough to endure.  The Framers gathered in Philadelphia for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation.  Within days they decided instead to frame a new government launching an experiment in centralized but limited government.

That they believed the people to be the source of legitimate authority is exposed in the Preamble which begins, “We the People.”  They based this belief upon the Enlightenment concept of Natural Law, that God endowed men with unalienable rights.  Many people in Western Civilization believed in Natural Law realizing that these rights, though endowed by the Creator as inherent prerogatives, would not continue to exist in organized society unless protected by limitations on government power.  The Framers believed Natural Law not only conferred rights it also established limits to the scope of government and man-made law.  In their mind no legitimate law violated the possession and enjoyment of the rights of man.  In declaring independence our ancestors proclaimed their purpose as assuming the station, “to which the laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them.”

Knowing all this was one thing, but devising a manner in which not only authority but also power could be conceded from society in general to a government which by the nature of organization consists of a much smaller number was quite another.  How was this power to be limited?  How were the rights of all to be protected from the power of the few?  What was to stop the concentration of power into the hands of factions combined for their own benefit?  How to provide a government with sufficient authority and power to ensure the security and order necessary for everyone to enjoy their natural rights, and yet restrained enough to allow them to do so?  This was the problem which confronted those locked in Independence Hall in 1787 devising a government strong enough to do good, yet limited enough to do no harm.

The concept of a written Constitution was the first step.  England had no written constitution.  It was ruled by tradition and precedent.  After the Revolution the Framers knew traditions and precedents can change.  So they looked to a written Constitution to provide a framework and guide for the new government, thus setting boundaries and establishing them for all to see.  They provided a means for change in the amendment process, but they made it difficult and cumbersome so that change would not be easy or readily accessible to the whim of a moment or the rulers of the day.

Beyond this primary recourse to a lasting written code the Framers sought to employ two vehicles for the limitation of government; a federal system wherein power is divided between the parts and the whole, and representation through which the voice of the people would speak.  To accomplish these twin goals the States retain their sovereignty and provide a legislature made up of two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The House of Representatives was and still is popularly elected by all eligible voters.  Every two years these closest of all national leaders return to the people for affirmation and a renewed mandate.  And the Senate, which was originally elected by the states through their legislatures who were all at least partially elected by the public thus, ensuring both: more input from the people and the federal nature of the government. The President and Vice President were and still are indirectly elected by the members of the Electoral College, which are chosen in accordance with procedures designated by the individual states, thus once again enhancing the federal nature of the government.  The President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, chooses the judges of the Federal Courts.

This system, which we’ve come to call checks and balances, provides that no law can be enacted without a majority vote by representatives elected directly by the people, representatives chosen by the States and signed by the President, whose election is a result of a combination of the people and the States.  Thus the authority of the people is employed, the voice of the people is heard, yet the indirect manner in which it is applied and the muted manner in which it is heard seeks to ensure a government insulated from the volatile passions of the day.

What the Framers sought was a government of reason. The Enlightenment thinkers believed through the use of reason people discover natural rights and natural law.  They also believed reason is the source of a government capable of protecting those rights by enforcing that law.  To this end they created a federal system to diffuse power and a representative republic to provide a voice for the people safeguarded from the emotions of the moment.  They hoped that reasonable people working within a federal government divided between branches and surrounded by a written constitution would ensure the authority of the many would pass through the hands of the few for the blessings of all. At least that was the hope.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System.  http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

I Got Some Transparency for You Right Here June 6, 2010

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President Obama promised the most transparent administration in history.  He pledged all bills would be posted online for five days before he signed them.  Turns out that only applied to NON-emergency bills, and everything is an emergency in our swiftly transforming America.  As Rom Emanuel, President Obama’s closest adviser says, “never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which must have been an emergency since it didn’t qualify for the five day guarantee.  We had to pass the pork-laden stimulus bill before the Best-Congress-Money-Can-Buy could even read it, let alone post it online, otherwise unemployment might reach the unacceptable 8% range; though most of the provisions wouldn’t kick in for months or years, but that was an emergency.  Another bill too big to read is America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, which fails to insure the uninsured and doesn’t slow the rising rates, which are the two things it was supposedly designed to accomplish.  And even though most of the provisions won’t overwhelm us until after the next presidential election it was an emergency.  Adding insult to injury, after saying “There has never been a more open process,” Nancy Pelosi crafted the health care take-over behind doors closed so tight they’ve been called an iron curtain.  Eventually she had the nerve to say “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…”

The American tradition was built upon the idea of limited and dispersed powers, and under the Constitution neither the people, nor the states, nor the federal government was given absolute power or complete sovereignty.  Behind the veil of silence, mockery and misstatements, and continuing a trend that has gone on through the reigns of many imperial presidents, the Obama administration is accumulating more power than any previous administration in American History.

Now the usual suspects are calling for the censorship of the media under the guise of protecting us all from hate speech.  After years of congressional blockade in the 1990s and presidential vetoes in the 21st century current Progressive CABAL has resurrected Ted Kennedy’s Hate Crimes law which now hangs like a shroud on the body politic. These types of laws have been used in Europe and Canada to criminalize opinion and squelch any who don’t repeat the catch phrases, which pass for free speech in the Progressive’s mental gulag.

Mark Lloyd Diversity Czar at the FCC seeks to gain greater control of broadcasting with the aim of curtailing the daily drip-drip of conservative commentary by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  In cyber space Net Neutrality is nothing but the patently unfair Fairness Doctrine for the Internet.  Political correctness has taken its toll of the spoken word.  We no longer know what to call anyone in this day of hyphenated-America and fractionalized interest groups when what is politically correct changes with the winds of doctrine.  The fairness police choke freedom out of speech using peer pressure while the administration tries to malign and marginalize the only network that isn’t acting as a fax service for their press releases.  This isn’t exactly what I envisioned when I heard that pledge to be the most transparent administration in history.  It’s more like the smoke and mirrors that passes for representative government in a one party state like Chicago.

Our Progressive leaders are transparent in one thing: their contempt for the desires of the people.  Even though he gave speech after speech trying to explain why we needed to reform our medical system to death the president said people were only against it because they didn’t understand it.  Now with the coming financial reform act combined with the previous take-over of auto and insurance brings a larger percentage of the American economy under government control than at any other time as poll after poll show the popular sentiment solidly against these acts, but the bills were rammed through anyway.  Obama the candidate denounced the Bush Administration as the most secretive in history.  The Obama Administration is now denying more Freedom of Information Act requests at a rate 50% above the previous administration.  I know we see through a glass darkly, but if this opaque obfuscation is transparency I’d hate to see secrecy. Perhaps secrecy is what you call announcing in advance when and where the next offensive is coming in the shooting wars across the sea.

Those who believe the Constitution is a Living Document they can self-amend at will continue to chip away at the traditional definitions of what it means to be free.  In the New-Speak of the transformed America racial quotas aren’t racial discrimination, the take-over of industries are done to save free enterprise and being in charge means it’s always someone else’s fault.  If those of us who want to remain free don’t use our remaining freedom to protect our freedom soon it may not be politically correct to even remind people that once we were free.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System.  http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

What Is Sovereignty and Who Has It May 16, 2010

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Sovereignty is accepted as absolute uncontested authority. This definition of the concept of sovereignty emerged along with the nation-state. The nation-state hasn’t always existed. Everyone tends to see the circumstances of their own times as the static normality of history. And contrary to the endless lectures of History teachers tied to politically correct text books and standardized tests, History is not static it’s dynamic, it changes every day. The concept of the nation-state emerged in the sixteenth century evolving from countries as the private property of monarchs, and however hard to envision the nation-state will someday be replaced by something else.
If that’s what sovereignty is who has it? In England it’s vested in Parliament. In China it’s vested in the Central Committee of the Communist Party. But in America sovereignty isn’t vested in any one place, which means there really isn’t any. No sovereignty? How can that be? Since sovereignty is an absolute, it either exists or it doesn’t and it’s a misapplied concept when striving to understand the American government.
This does not mean that the United States is not a sovereign nation. The Federal Government represents the United Sates on the world stage. To the other countries of the world the Federal Government is the sovereign power with which they must deal. However, domestically we face a different situation. In some areas the Federal Government is sovereign, in some areas the States are sovereign, and in some areas the people are sovereign. Since sovereignty by definition is an absolutist concept and not one of degrees, either something is sovereign or it is not. In the United States there is no one legitimate source or center of sovereignty. The revolutionary theory the Framers advanced into practice is that several centers of power prevents the formation of an authority vortex swallowing all legitimate authority and paralyzing decision making, thus establishing the world’s first viable system of disassociated sovereignty.
Under the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Constitution as the foundational document and framework of organization of the United States, stated categorically in Article II, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence.” Nowhere in the Constitution is this retention of inherent sovereignty surrendered. The so-called sovereignty clause found in Article Six of the Constitution obviously gives precedence to the laws and treaties made by the Federal government it does not however expressly say anywhere in the document that the States surrendered or forfeited their inherent sovereignty. If it had it never would’ve been ratified. As expressly stated in the 10th Amendment neither the States nor the people surrendered their sovereignty to the Federal Government they delegated it. There is a difference between these two actions. To surrender is to give entirely and irrevocably to another while delegation is a temporary action based upon continued agreement between the parties involved.
Another strong argument can be made that since all governments are the products of a social contract between those who govern and those governed sovereignty ultimately resides in the people and governments are therefore merely agents of the people’s will. According to this line of thought all governments wield delegated powers and can have no more power in and of themselves than the moon has light without the sun.
Amendment is the only legitimate process for change under the Constitution. If the design calls for a decentralized diffused sovereignty in an asymmetrical system how was change achieved from that to the current system of highly centralized power and control? Was it by amendment or practice? Is it possible for an illegitimate practice to become a legitimate tradition? Is it possible for an illegitimate tradition to set a legitimate precedent?
All of these historically based academic discussions aside and for all intents and purposes the argument about who is sovereign was forever settled by Abraham Lincoln. When the South attempted to succeed, an action not prohibited by the Constitution they were beat back into submission to the Federal Government. Debate over. Question answered. The Federal Government is supreme. However, though this is the reality of our circumstance since the Civil War this is a reality imposed through the use of military force not to be confounded with the original condition based upon the voluntary agreement between the people, the states and the national government in Constitution.
For years this question of who is sovereign has see-sawed back and forth. Today the Progressives and their two headed government party seek to make the exaltation of the central government permanent. If this stands unchallenged America has devolved from the defused model established under the Constitution to a centralized version reminiscent of its original absolutist definition. If this new normal is enshrined as reality it will become increasingly obvious as States strive to assert their rights and people seek to preserve their freedom. For if the central government is now absolutely sovereign it will eventually crush all rivals. If the people are sovereign in time they’ll find their voice, reassert their power, re-establish the federal system, and return to the social contract as ratified in the Constitution.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

A Government of Fallible Men to Rule Fallible Men May 3, 2010

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In America today a debate rages concerning the legitimate role of government. Currently the Federal Government is controlled by a group of politicians who consider themselves the ideological descendants of the Progressive Movement. Beginning in the 1890’s the Progressives led by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson championed the idea that it was time to progress past America’s old ways of doing things. They felt the traditions, forms, and style of American governance and society should break-out of the mold provided by the Constitution by casting it as a “living Breathing Document” that could be remolded to meet the desires of every generation.
They believed, and their descendants still believe, it is the behavior of men that defines who they are. This contrasts with our Founders who believed that it is instead the nature of men that provides this definition. Our Founders expressly stated that they believed humanity has been endowed by the Creator with rights. They felt that these rights are inalienable, meaning they are humanity’s by virtue of existence. In other words, these rights have not been earned by man they’ve been given by God and since they haven’t been given by government, government can’t legitimately take them away. Instead of existing for its own right, the reason for government is to protect these natural rights. It’s the need for the order, security and liberty for the pursuit of happiness, which justifies the establishment and continuation of government.
Thus, a government of the people, by the people and for the people should be one based upon the nature of man. It’s in this context that the voice of the people could almost be called the voice of God for if the Creator implanted this nature and these rights within humanity the collective expression freely arrived at and freely expressed should bring to the fore those who will respect and guard these rights.
If this is true then the will of the majority should always be the surest way to ensure the continued existence of man’s natural rights. If we had a nation of perfect people this would be true; however, in establishing and maintaining government we don’t deal with perfect people we deal with people as they are with all the imperfections and prejudices nurture superimposes upon nature. People who don’t educate themselves enough to exercise self-leadership become the pawns of demagogues and the voice of God is perverted into the voice of the world.
Even the Founders, a grouping singular in the history of men concerning the brilliance of their intellects and the purity of their motives knew they couldn’t trust themselves to form or maintain a government of fallible men to rule over fallible men. They knew that history is filled with examples of charismatic leaders who’ve proven that while you can fool all of the people only some of the time it’s possible to fool enough people to take over a country. Then once you’ve fooled a plurality of voters to take over you can make fools of everyone doing whatever you like for as long as you like. This is why the protection of freedom is a limited government.
Power must be concentrated enough to provide order, security and liberty; however, if unrestrained power is given to a majority the opportunity exists for a faction to gain control and use it for purely partisan ends. Thus our Founders rejected direct democracy in favor of the federal model of divided sovereignty and the republican principle of both direct and in-direct representation. That the source of authority emanates from the people and the constituent States is demonstrated in several ways. The Constitution itself was referred to delegates chosen by the States. In the American government as initially designed the people were represented directly by the House of Representatives and the States by the Senate. The executive was elected indirectly by the people and the states through the Electoral College. The members of the judicial branch are appointed by the executive with the advice and consent of the Senate.
This process of allowing democratic choice within a framework of restraint was designed to create a government based upon the premise of inalienable rights yet cognizant of the fallible nature of mankind. A government powerful enough to ensure the security necessary to guarantee those rights, yet retrained enough not to trample them. Many of the Progressive innovations of the last 100 years have upset this delicate balance moving us from the government envisioned by the founders to the one we have today.
The Seventeenth Amendment mandates the direct election of the Senate. This left the States without any voice in the Federal Government. It also opened the door for a combination of factions acting as an unrestrained majority seeking the benefit of some at the expense of others. Often those who take the limits off government seek unlimited power for themselves. We must follow the guide of our ancestors for the good of our posterity. We must resist the temptation to seek security through government rather than security from government.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

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