Back in the late 1990s, I joined the Libertarian Party. I became a Big “L”, putting my money and time where my political stance lay. And I was so happy to have found a political home I wanted to share it. When I got my card in the mail, I shared the news with a good friend in a glowing email. We have since parted ways for other reasons, (not politics) but we used to engage in debate, he on offense with Libertarian philosophy and I took up the defense. Back then, these conversations were conducted via email or face-to-face conversation. There was no Twitter or Facebook or Ello.
His arguments were more along the lines of the current Democratic Party platform but felt much closer to the old Soviet Union. My friend avoided the term “communist” when I finally outed him based on his opinions on what made good government. But he despised the term. He preferred “communitarian”. To date, I don’t see the difference. Yet he preferred it so I let him have it. It’s a strange thing, the way people wish to avoid the stigmatization of failed systems yet want to continue to believe the dream. Relabelling doesn’t solve the problem, but I guess it keeps hope alive.
The core of our debates went something like this: He calling the Constitution an outdated document that needed to be replaced and/or fixed. And I saying that other than slavery (that had been done away with already) and other than the failed ten year plus lifespan of the Eighteenth Amendment, the Constitution still remains the best document ever crafted on governance. And round and round we’d go.
When you read the Constitution, even if you knew nothing about the history of governments (say you’re that hypothetical alien visiting planet Earth), you would see that the writers had gone to great lengths to limit it’s ruling body. You would instantly know that the writers had prepared a document that prevented abuses. You would know immediately that it was created because prior governments had abused their people and this document was written to prevent those abuses from happening again. After all, why create a Bill of Rights if speech, religion, the press, etc. had not been abused before? Read the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. They put the big foot down in regards to limiting government.
My friend argued that the Constitution and my Libertarian arguments failed to recognize the “dynamics and sentiments of culture”. Or, to acknowledge the abuses the poor and working class suffered from land owners and barons. Yet…
The Constitution was created by considering and recognizing history. So it is, in fact, very historical and takes into account the many “dynamics and sentiments of culture”. It was put together by people who considered history and observed the many abuses of the power model of government. The writers of this Constitution went to great lengths to prevent the mistakes of history from happening here in America. The fact is, the Constitution is the ONLY document in history that was created to limit the power of government and respect the individual liberties of the people because no one else had done it before. This goes for the poor and working class as well. Opportunity is available for all. It’s up to each and every one of us, regardless of the deck we start with, to shuffle it up the best we can. Individual results may vary.
As he was proposing to do away with the Constitution and rewrite government, I could see where he was coming from. If he wanted a “communitarian” government, he’d have start from scratch. But until then, the Constitution must be accepted and government must be harnessed under its reigns. The Constitution is the supreme law of The United States of America and, until that is changed, it must be honored. If the ruling power can bypass it’s own laws and do whatever it wants, then what does that say about us as a society, especially if we accept it? Incidentally, since those 1990s conversations, our government has bypassed the Constitution on so many levels I’ve yet to find enough paper to catalog them all.
My friend continually brought out his favorite government program, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as proof that although not Constitutionally authorized, was extremely beneficial. He cited the great work of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” as a motivator to finally get some regulation so our food wouldn’t be tainted. And I’d respond with…
Today, the Federal Government consistently bypasses the Constitution and does whatever it feels like, for better or worse. You may enjoy the FDA but the Feds had no authority to create it just as they had no authority to create NASA, the CIA, FBI, DEA and other organizations of the government alphabet soup. The only way the powers of the American government can be changed is through amending the Constitution. Right now, our government does not do this. They brush the Constitution aside as if it were a burdensome article.
Think on this a minute…
If Consumer Reports began to forcefully take your money for its projects, would you accept this?
If Ford, GM and Chrysler forcefully took your money to fund research on the next addition of automobiles, would you accept this?
If the Salvation Army began to force you, through threats of jail and/or prison, to hand over part of your paycheck for a welfare system, even if it was shown to work perfectly, would you smile and accept this?
I suspect that you probably would not. Why? Because you know that GM, Consumer Reports and the Salvation Army have no authority to forcefully take your money regardless of the benefits. The same applies to government programs. Regardless of the benefit, if an organization has no authority to do something, then it is prohibited. However, if you wanted to voluntarily donate to their cause, then that is perfectly acceptable because it is voluntary.
The issue comes down to FORCE. Government forces you to participate regardless of your support. Private companies do not have that power and no one in their right mind would allow it. Why do you support forcing people to support programs they want no part of?
You say that you like the existence of the FDA. Well, that’s fine. But if the government gives you your program, then everyone else gets theirs. The biggest problem with our government is that special interest groups run it. Whether you smoke or not, the Feds give over your tax dollars to subsidize the tobacco companies. Whether or not you support an effort in a foreign land, your government sends your tax dollars to it. It doesn’t matter if you can’t feed your children or send them to an accredited university, government will go right on building that space station with your money it took by force.
Specifically in regards to the FDA, what makes you think that it is necessary or even the most benign? After all, Consumer Reports and other private watchdog groups already exist to check the product of corporations. It makes no sense to have an FDA, not to mention that it has no Constitutional authority to exist. You are not required to fund Consumer Reports but you are required to fund the FDA only because it is a government program, not because it is the best or most productive. If, just hypothetically, the FDA did not exist, would you voluntarily give over some of your money to Consumer Reports? Maybe you would. Maybe you would not. It depends on how important the issue is to you. I suspect you’d be getting your money’s worth mainly because if Consumer Reports does not give you quality results, they would cease to exist because people would stop funding them. The FDA keeps right on going regardless of their results.
On a final note, what makes you think those government programs are better than privately run ones? Our government can’t keep people from taking drugs, it can’t make people go from welfare to work, it can’t educate your child, it can’t make blacks and whites get along, it can’t stop abortions….etc…etc…etc. Given the results of these government efforts, what makes you think that a government program can make food and drugs safer?
Government doesn’t work. It never has. A government program is no more benign than a private one. In fact, history shows them to be less productive and mainly destructive because they operate on force and not results. You may feel safer by having these government programs but I hold reservations to giving government authority to do anything, regardless of the benefits. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”.
And that was that. We stopped discussing politics because we were getting no where. He was just fine using force to support his favorite programs, I was not. I wonder what he’s doing now? Last I heard, he was quitting his job to enter the priesthood. Oh the things we’d discuss now. Maybe some other time.