Of Kings and Governors…

Posted: September 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

In last night’s GOP Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the main action of the debate consisted of  three governors squabbling over their records as chief executives in their respective states.  Gov. Rick Perry and former Governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman spent their allotted time picking apart each others records on job creation, Health-care, and other miscellaneous statist policy.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a consensus amongst political pundits that being a governor of a successful state is a part of a litmus test that determines whether or not someone is qualified as a candidate for the presidency.  In this day and age, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

If the presidencies of George Bush and Barack Obama have taught us anything, its that the constitutional understanding of the Executive Branch’s power in government is being completely misinterpreted.

We live in an age of the Imperial Presidency.  This is an age in which it is characteristic of our chief executives to completely ignore the legislative branch when their whims are not met with absolute support and compliance.  It is almost impossible to count the instances in which our last two presidents alone have over stepped the bounds of their constitutional authority.  In their book, Power Surge, Gene Healey and Tim Lynch outline our twisted, modern view of executive power:

  • a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech—and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
  • a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
  • a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as “enemy combatants,” strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever; and
  • a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.  “

 

Almost all actions taken by the Obama Administration in the last two and a half years have completely endorsed this understanding of executive power.  From outright abuses such as Obamacare and military action in Libya, to amusing contemplations such as ignoring Congress’ ruling on the recent debt ceiling measures, it should be clear to all of us that action such as this would infuriate our nation’s founders.

In “The Federalist No. 51” James Madison described the nature of the idea behind the system of checks and balances:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

Madison’s words beautifully illustrate a very simple point.  The great American experiment of Constitutional Republicanism was meant to be framed in such a way that secures the liberties of it’s citizens from the will of a king or tyrant.

In regards to the search for our current President’s successor, I think that voters would not be wrong to be wary of candidates who are experienced in the use of Executive power.  My intention is not to undermine or criticize the character of any of the candidates previously mentioned, I just think that a healthy distrust of any executive who has served in this age of  radical executive decision making would prove to be more wise than foolish.

As for a suggestion of what voters should be looking for, I humbly suggest that we nominate a figure of principle.  Obviously, I would seek a figure who recognizes the severe abuse of executive power in recent history.  In my view as someone who seeks to further the cause of liberty, I would also prefer a figure who has shown a consistent dedication to the principles of our founders and our constitution.  We should seek for the nomination of one who does not cast aside those principles for the sake of political expedience.

Does this sound like anyone we know?

 

 

 

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The Media Is the Enemy by Justin Raimondo — Antiwar.com.

I can only imagine how confusing the sudden “Debt Ceiling Crisis” must seem to everyday Americans.  For the first time since almost anyone can remember, the almost yearly ritual of raising the federal government’s borrowing capacity actually seems to matter.  President Obama, politicians and so called “economists” are telling us that Congress must use a compromised, “balanced” approach in raising the debt ceiling.

We have been forewarned on what to expect if this does not happen. Yesterday, Credit Suisse predicted that the stock market would fall 30% if a deal wasn’t  reached by the August 2nd deadline.   Additionally, last Monday President Obama proclaimed that all functions of the federal government would shut down immediately in the event of debt default.  Specifically mentioning a halt on Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits and all government contracts, Obama seems to be just as terrified as you and I should be.

Pandemonium!  Rioting in the streets!

Chaos!

Not so fast.  Unfortunately,

The raising of the federal debt has been a common occurrence since 1917, when congress passed the Second Liberty Bond Act to help with the government’s financing of the United States’ involvement in World War I.  In fact, the debt ceiling has been raised 77 times since 1962 and even three times in the last three years, twice in 2009 and once in 2010.

One has to ask; what’s the big deal this time?

Suddenly, Congress is selling us the pretense that the current debt ceiling vote is a battle of ideology.  Left versus right, liberal versus conservative.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As a fellow blogger pointed out a few weeks ago, in a 2006 vote  every Democrat in the U.S Senate voted against raising the debt ceiling, and all but two Republicans voted for raising it.

Clearly the current drama in Washington is nothing but pure political posturing.  Congress’ complete lack of principle, (With the obvious exception of a select few) is completely laughable.

The real reason why we are hearing about the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011 has much to do with how the Tea Party and liberty movements have shaped the debate in Washington during the past year.  Last November, journalists were already speculating whether successful Tea Party candidates such as Rand Paul were going to actually follow through with their libertarian rhetoric and demand balanced budgets and reductions in the federal debt.

Luckily, the mere fact that there is debate on the debt ceiling speaks volumes for candidates such as Sens. Paul, Lee and Rep. Justin Amash.

It is certainly understandable to be frustrated at the seemingly inevitable “compromise” which congress will reach in the coming days.  However, I do think that both Tea Party and Libertarian activists should take time to consider how far the national debate has shifted in the last year.

We must be doing something right.

Is Lupe Fiasco Right?

Posted: July 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

In an age where politicians want to be celebrities and celebrities want to be politicians, It is rewarding to witness a rare moment when someone from the entertainment industry actually displays some sort of  consistent political principle in what they say or do.

Chicago based rapper Lupe Fiasco did just that in his recent interview in which he spoke out against the foreign policy of the Obama Administration.  In a moment which falls somewhere between courageous and offensive, Fiasco said the following;

“In my fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama and the United States Of America”.  He went on to explain, “I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism.  You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff that the U.S Government allows to happen, and the foreign policies that we have in different countries which inspire people to become terrorists.  And it’s easy for us because it’s just some oil.”

Fiasco’s comments although rather inflammatory, actually sound pretty in line with both the views expressed in Chalmer Johnson’s book, Blowback, and the foreign policy positions of 2012 Presidential Candidate Ron Paul.

Certainly, Lupe Fiasco’s musical career might cause some liberty activists to wonder.  His latest music video, “Words I Never Said” features Fiasco struggling to express himself against a fictional oppressive government.  In addition to that, his latest album, entitled “Lasers”, features a red “a” anarchy symbol.

Perhaps the most liberty minded release of his career was a 2009 mixtape, “Enemy Of The State.”  An interlude in the release states, “We will not compromise who we are to be accepted by the crowd.  We want substance in the place of popularity.  We want to think our own thoughts.  We want love, not lies.  We want knowledge, understanding, and peace.  We will not lose, because we are not losers, we are lasers.”

Lupe Fiasco should be applauded for his independent mind, and for his courage to voice his opinion, even when it might be perceived as an unpopular one.

Comic Books, and other stories in the “superhero” genre are rich with philosophical messages that are often unfortunately left unseen or ignored by the majority of both readers and viewers alike.  In the creation of the first “superheroes” in the 1930’s, it is evident that characters such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were very much the product of the moral aspirations of their creators.  These aspiring fictional characters were thrust into ongoing stories of moral conflict which very much represent the values of the society in which they were created from.  Superman, in particular, is often said to represent “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”.  Early Superman stories in particular feature very clear themes of right vs. wrong, truth vs. deceit, and generally good vs. evil.  In fact, the earliest stories by Siegel and Shuster present Superman as somewhat of a populist “man of the people”, in which we find Superman tearing down housing projects which he deems unsafe, smashing automobiles that pose a threat to drivers’ safety, and even delivering to the law crooked business leaders who are cheating their employees and clients.

In the 1960’s the superhero genre received a revamp in the moral relevance of stories in order to keep up with the ethical issues of the day.  The influence of historical events such as the Civil Rights Movement, and the ideological battle between the United States and Communist Russia are clearly seen in the origins of several new heroes.  Casting aside the moralistic fantasies of the pre-WWII world, writers and artists such as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko oversaw the development of an entire pantheon of heroes whose stories were competent and relevant to the age of post modernism.  Perhaps there is no clearer example of this influence than in the stories of the X-Men.

The new movie, X-Men: First Class revisits the origin of Marvel Comics’ most famous group of mutants.  Set in 1962, (Ironically the same year that the X-Men made their first comic book appearance,) X-Men: First Class introduces the emergence of a fictional species of super powered mutants, known as Homo Sapien Superior.  Unlike Richard Donner’s Superman and other superhero movies, X-Men: First Class realistically hypothesizes how the world would react to the sudden emergence of super-powered individuals.  The movie’s historical setting is particularly brilliant, allowing the story to take full advantage of the tumultuous culture unique to the 1960’s.  Much of the movie consists of the introduction of integral X-Men characters such Professor Charles Xavier, Erik Lesherr, (Magneto) Mystique, Beast , Emma Frost, and others.  Upon the very sudden emergence of such spectacular characters, the mutants are drawn into two opposite teams, The “X-Men” lead by Professor Xavier, and co-opted by the U.S Government, and the antagonizing Hellfire Club, lead by the main villain Sebastian Shaw, who seek to start a nuclear war through the manipulation of the Soviet Union.  Things come to a head during an event which is supposedly tied into the real life Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  Nuclear war is of course diverted, and the movie concludes quite satisfyingly. In addition to a great main plot, the movie additionally features some fantastic minor story lines, which I won’t ruin for all of you who may not have seen the movie yet.

What really impressed me about X-Men: First Class was its brilliant representation of the ethical conflicts that are featured so dominantly in all X-Men stories.  In every medium, X-Men stories feature themes such as equality, human rights, social change, and a discussion on ethics and whether or not human behavior should be judged by an ultimate moral basis.

The last theme mentioned is in my opinion, the main theme in X-Men: First Class.  This debate is illustrated in the interaction of the movies’ two main characters, Professor X, and Magneto.  The development and diffusion of their friendship is brilliantly portrayed by the two actors respectively portraying the two characters, James McAvoy and Michael Fassenbender.

Besides the facts that both Professor X and Magneto are mutants, and seek to protect mutants, the characters are about as unlikely of friends as any two individuals can be.

Firstly, lets look at the character of Magneto.  As X-Men: First Class portrays, the man who would become Magneto was effectively born in a Eastern European concentration camp during World War II.  Furthermore, the movie lets us know that Sebastian Shaw (operating under the alias Dr. Schmidt) murders his mother in an attempt to extract Magneto’s powers for sinister reasons.  After the war, Magneto sets out on a mission of vengeance, pretty much just killing any Nazi who was involved in the containment and murdering of his family.  Even though he is ultimately successful in this mission, the focus of his character begins to shift as more and more mutants begin to emerge.  Strangely enough, Magneto adopts a philosophy which most people would recognize as the same philosophy that Hitler used to justify the Holocaust.  Very much like Hitler, In the midst of experiencing the prejudice, Magneto begins to justify his murderous acts with Friedrich  Nietzsche’s philosophy of the “Übermensch”, or sometimes as it is ironically translated, “The Superman”.

Nietzsche’s “Übermensch” philosophy was introduced as an alternative to the “other-worldliness” of Christianity.  Speaking to those who are dissatisfied with the world as it is, Nietzsche attempts to lure the religious away from Christ’s promise of an ultimate redemption and reconciliation in the next life.  With this clearly as his motivation, Nietzsche declares those dissatisfied to turn away from all things that are not directly linked to the human body in order to achieve the society of the Übermensch.  In order to do this, Nietzsche tells us that we must reject what he sees as our objective recognition of concepts such as “truth”, “essence”, and the human soul.  While not declaring these concepts to be complete illusions, Nietzsche declares them to be secondary to the importance of the physical human.  (Or again, what could again be described as the Übermensch.)

I’m not going to suggest that Nietzsche was a Nazi or genocidal in any way, but his motivations seem to be certainly suspect.  Nietzsche’s philosophy floats anywhere from being too vague to definitely exhibiting many fallacies in practice.  In Magneto and Sebastian Shaw’s mind, Nietzsche’s ideal is already realized.  The movie makes many references to “the better man”.  Magneto and Shaw, although enemies, both consider mutants to be the better man.  They make the decision to embrace Nietzsche’s philosophy when the both decide that Earth would be a better place if it were purely devoted to the advancement of mutants alone.  Reasonable individuals would question this philosophy the first time that it was used by anyone to justify the extermination of human life.

Opposite Magneto we find Charles Xavier, who exemplifies a different definition of what it means to be “the better man”.  While still a mutant, Xavier rejects Nietzsche’s philosophy.  Indeed, Xavier is the movie’s proponent of a morality derived from “natural law”.  Natural law theorists generally accept human nature as it is, or as it was created.  To be “the better man” Xavier concludes that one must sacrifice himself for others, seek peace instead of war, and understanding and civility instead of ignorance.  In many X-Men comic book stories, Professor Xavier displays a nearly Christlike selflessness, often putting aside his and his “family”‘s safety in order to save those who openly oppress him.

The philosophical message that I see in X-Men: First Class, and other X-Men stories, is a very profound one.  Instead of using X-Men to further the validity of  trans humanist philosophers such as Nietzsche, (As many not so casual viewers and readers do.) I see it as a great metaphorical story for natural law, and morality which derives from the Christian tradition.  The brilliance of the franchise is that it is able to communicate such truths effectively in an age of increasing relativity.

The American Conservative » Who’s a Republican?.

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson spoke before a joint session of Congress seeking a Declaration of War against Germany and the Central Powers.  In doing so, he declared that the world “must be made safe for democracy”.  Wilson’s statement has served as a foundation for American foreign policy in the nearly 100 years since the United States’ entry into World War I.  Almost every armed conflict that the United States has involved itself in has been justified by our leaders largely in part because “we are fighting for democracy and freedom”.  With common sense and insight, it is not hard to see that every Cold War conflict was dominated by this theme.  (Democracy vs. Communism) Even more recently, the United States government has used this to justify conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It even seems that victory in these conflicts is defined by how well our soldiers enforce democratic elections.  The modern principle for this intervention was reiterated by President George W. Bush in his second inaugural address.  He stated, “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

With revolutions and civic unrest in the Middle East, and not to mention the United States’ involvement in five wars, I think it is reasonable to question whether President Wilson’s logic is sound, or if it is even safe for the peoples of the United States and abroad.

First of all, can the United States even be considered a democracy?  At least in the traditional sense, the answer is no.  The form of government that is traditionally considered a democracy first emerged in the city-states of Ancient Greece.  Ideally, a democracy is a government in which every citizen has an equal say in every decision and action that the government might partake in.  In the city-states of Ancient Greece, this was actually quite feasible.  (“Citizens” were only considered to be land-owning males.)  When this “pure” form of democracy was not possible, the Greeks resorted to representation via random selection.  (Similar to the way in which we choose juries.)

The United States, while using the democratic process, cannot be considered a democracy.  Indeed, the United States Senate is one of the most unrepresentative legislative bodies in the world.  The United States’ government takes the form of a federal republic.  The difference between this and a democracy can probably be best explained by considering the motivating philosophies of both forms of government.  A democracy is motivated by a desire for the will of the community to be completely represented.  A federal republic, however, is motivated by the rule of law and by not only the representation of it’s citizens, but also by the protection of their rights.

In a democracy, nothing can restrain the will of the majority.  With the blessing of a mere 51 percent of its citizens, the government is able to justify anything.  Maybe those who shape United States foreign policy should take that into account.  Even in the view of an interventionist, the prospect of democratic rule in certain parts of the world hold many unfavorable possibilities.  These possibilities have became realities in countries such as Iran and Venezuela, countries that go through great efforts to make their political process appear “democratic”.  In truth however, these countries have completely suppressed the rights of their citizens.  To make things worse, they have learned to do so in the “democratic” manner in which the United States has so shamelessly promoted.  When we say that our mission is to “make the world safe for democracy”, do we really know what we are saying?

Even I doubt that the framers of the Constitution had the wisdom to foresee a dilemma as particular as this.  Thankfully though, we do know which form of government we were given, and we would do well to respect it.  The framers of the Constitution were very much men of the Revolution.  Above anything else, they sought to establish a government which would be restrained.  The Constitution was written through the perspective of law that states what the federal government cannot do.  Any form of government will give way to tyranny except the form which defends the rights of its citizens through the rule of law.  This principle should be just as obvious to us today as it was to those who signed our Constitution over 220 years ago.

For Further Reading:

The Future Of Freedom- by Fareed Zakaria

Liberty Defined- by Ron Paul