After The Fireworks – “For What Did We Throw Off The Yoke Of Britain And Call Ourselves Independent?”


Well, everybody’s back from the beach or the lake, we’re done with our hot dogs and picnics and fireworks. We’re all back in our workplaces and offices.

Well, unfortunately not everyone; a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report finds 92 million Americans not participating in the labor force; meanwhile much of the hiring that is happening is in government.

A new Forbes column by Merrill Matthews notes that most Americans now receive government benefits, that “Obamacare has pushed us over the entitlements tipping point.”

People will vote to keep those benefits, and future Republicans can be expected to defend your “rights” under Obamacare.

My favorite definition of rights comes from an opposite vision, that rights in a political context allow you to act; they do not impose obligations on others to act on your behalf, except to leave you alone.

Replacing the “silken bands of mild government” envisioned during the U.S. colonial era, the genuine brotherhood we allegedly celebrate on the 4th of July, has been a long time in the making.

The founders were in many ways inventing political liberty, so it’s no surprise they couldn’t foresee every usurpation to be devised by rascals, or that we ourselves didn’t quite live up to their genius or appreciate the utter uniqueness of what they created–or its fragility.

During the Constitution’s ratification debates, the Articles of Confederation gave way to Alexander Hamilton’ doctrine of discretionary powers, anchored by the “necessary and proper” clause, Article 1, Sec. 8 of the Constitution. Over time that’s bestowed upon us a national government that can do pretty well what it pleases, enumerated powers be damned.

Indeed, enumerated powers somehow omitted control of retirement and health care, unbounded spending and “stimulus,” denial of affordable energy while imposing inefficient renewables, increasing federal control over education at all levels, cronyism galore, nannyism.

That’s just Congress; President Obama’s “pen” and “phone” unilateralism embodies an even more complete derailment of the separation of powers and checks and balances already outgunned by “necessary and proper.”

So it isn’t just that Congress is too powerful. That our’s is the largest government on earth is still not enough for the executive, who brags about doing an end-run around congressional lawmaking.

In No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, Lysander Spooner wrote in 1867:

But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

That’s emphatic. I love Spooner’s work but disagree with that conclusion given its broader implications, and the alternatives. I think the “science” of Liberty remains to be discovered, that we (humanity, not primarily us living today) will escalate human freedom. I hope that that there is a “ratchet” that expands global liberty in the same way the famous “ratchet effect” of Professor Robert Higgs makes government grow in most localized instances even after crises subside.

But back to the Fourth of July of today in the context of yesterday; In the Federalist Papers, to pave the way for ratification, Alexander Hamilton stridently defended the new Constitution under the pseudonym “Caesar.”

Even then many were not impressed with Hamilton’s vision of centralized power or the arrogance of the Federalists. Appealing to the public as “Cato CATO +0.06%” on October 11, 1787, New York Governor George Clinton penned the below in opposition to “Caesar.”

Is not your indignation roused at this absolute, imperious style? For what did you open the veins of your citizens and expend their treasure? For what did you throw off the yoke of Britain and call yourselves independent? Was it from a disposition fond of change, or to procure new masters?—if those were your motives, you have reward before you—go, retire into silent obscurity, and kiss the rod that scourges you, bury the prospects you had in store, that you and your posterity would participate in the blessings of freedom, and the employments of your country—let the rich and insolent alone be your rulers. …. But if you had nobler views, …are you now to be derided and insulted? Is the power of thinking, on the only subject important to you, to be taken away? And if per chance you should happen to differ from Caesar, are you to have Caesar’s principles crammed down your throats with an army? God forbid!

Now there’s a guy unlikely to be impressed with anyone’s pen and phone, Obamacare, swarms of bureaucrats, or a nanny state.

This Clinton, unlike modern ones, would not have thought it proper that Washington, D.C. should be the wealthiest metro area in this nation.

Most have lost “Cato’s” spirit of genuine Independence, or, as is likely since we are mostly educated in government schools, never truly fathomed that it existed. That’s too bad.
Positive signs of a pushback against the all-powerful state exist, however, such as the Supreme Court’s rejection of many expansions of federal power, as outlined best in a new “Legal Limit” report from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

It is not pre-ordained that we remain over any tipping point, whether entitlements or spending or regulation. There’ll always be an America; I want it to stay here!