Archives for Founding Fathers

Celebrating (less) Independence

The land of liberty ain’t what it used to be.

Big GovernmentOn the one hand we have faceless bureaucrats becoming more ingrained in our everyday lives, and on the other hand we have judges overturning the will of the voters, whether expressed in referendums or via elected representatives.

Hardly a cause for a celebration of independence.

And just what are we supposed to be celebrating independence from anyway? Large, distant, unrepresentative government that infringes on our liberties?

Take a moment today and read the list of charges made in the Declaration of Independence against the British monarchy. I won’t spoil it for you, but a person could be excused for thinking it was meant to describe some of the actions of our own federal government.

In fact, the last time we celebrated a real expansion of liberty from intrusive, dictatorial government was when the Declaration was written two-hundred and thirty-seven years ago. Each passing Independence Day since has seen a government grown larger at the expense of the liberties of the people it is supposed to serve.

(Read “Common Sense”, the book that helped start the Revolution)

The primary means our Founding Fathers employed to control government and preserve liberty was separation of powers, taking political power and splitting it into executive, legislative and judicial functions. The novel idea was to set them in opposition to one another so that each one would check the powers of the other two.

It would be nice if we actually lived under such a government.

It’s a measure of who is really in charge of our country when you compare the size of the Congressional Record (the sum of all of the proceedings and legislation enacted by Congress) versus the Federal Register (the sum of all the regulations put in place by faceless, unelected bureaucrats). The Register wins hands down, totaling just shy of eighty-thousand pages in 2012 alone – and almost 1.5 million since it was first published in 1936.

The Roman historian Tacitus once said, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws”, but he didn’t live long enough to see a modern “progressive” tax code-enabled, social-welfare regulatory state. Today he might say, “The more oppressive the government, the more numerous the laws”.

So, how did it get to this point? Slowly but surely, Congress passes broad stroke legislation with language like “as the Secretary shall determine”, allowing executive branch bureaucrats to fill in the details. That’s how two-thousand page bills like Obamacare spawn over ten-thousand pages in new regulations.

The problem with the regulatory state is that it is an end-run around the separation of powers. It coalesces more power in the executive branch, (which means into the hands of bureaucrats); and more of it in Washington, DC, as opposed to the state and local governments that are closer to the people.

Of course the beauty of the regulatory state for the political class is that nobody is really in charge. And when a scandal presents itself, it’s met with calls by government enablers for “better regulations”, or more people or money to better enforce them; never with why they should exist to begin with.

The simple fact is the more regulators that the government has (and Obamacare adds an additional sixteen-thousand), the more power it has over the individual, and the more opportunities it has to exert bias, (as the recent IRS scandal demonstrates).

If our representative branch has abdicated much of its authority, the judiciary is steadily eroding what’s left.

Just this past week the Supreme Court claimed that Congress was bigoted to try to defend the definition of society’s most fundamental institution as it has been understood for several thousand years. This was on top of their condoning a lower court decision which threw out a referendum passed on the same subject by voters in California.

Further, Christian Americans are now being hauled into court on “civil rights violations” for refusing to provide services for gay weddings, Christian charities are forced to close in states that won’t allow them to practice faith based adoption services, and others face millions in fines for not providing abortion-related services in company health-care plans.

And this is the land of liberty?

Instead of celebrating independence on July 4th, maybe we should treat the occasion more like Memorial Day, honoring what our Founding Founders achieved, and remembering what we’ve lost.

I think it’s safe to say that they wouldn’t be doing too much celebrating.