August 13, 2010
America's Slipping Grasp on Self-GovernanceBy Joseph Ashby
One of the main grievances cited in the Declaration of Independence was King George's complete disregard of the people's will. As the Declaration asserts, the colonists' "repeated petitions [were] answered only by repeated injury." These words echo throughout America today.
Arizona (and most of America) "petitioned" for a secure southern border. Those requests were met with proposals of so-called comprehensive immigration reform. After the public stopped the 2007 amnesty bill, a seemingly repentant Congress promised to build hundreds of miles of double-layered border fence. The lion's share of the fence was meant to disrupt the high-volume human-trafficking areas along the Arizona-Mexico border. It was a start.
Unfortunately, the start never started. After delays due to land "surveying," the border fence has been mostly defunded and forgotten. Petitions over the federal government's failure to follow through were met with only token promises of extra protection, virtual fences, and more resources on the border.
Left with few options and backed by overwhelming public support, Arizona passed and signed its immigration enforcement law, S.B. 1070. The effort was met with derision, slander, and an eventual lawsuit, once again forcing Arizona to wait for an unwilling federal government to enforce the law and protect the border.
A similar story has played out in California. In the 2000 primary election, 61.4% of the voters officially defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Just five years later, the legislature passed a bill overturning the voter-backed measure. The bill was vetoed by the governor.
Undeterred by losses in the elected realm, the battle was taken to the courts. In 2008, a 4-3 state Supreme Court decision struck down the marriage law.
The people continued to use proper legal means to enact their will. Californians successfully defined marriage in the state Constitution (ostensibly the court's sovereign document).
Once again, this petition was answered with injury. No longer able to undermine the people's will on the state level, the Federal District Court in San Francisco took up and invalidated the new amendment, thus overruling the more than 7 million votes (over 11 million votes factoring in the original referendum).
A disregard for the law and the people's will is not confined to the judiciary. From the bank and auto bailouts, to the stimulus bill and health care overhaul, the elected branches of the federal government have sneeringly answered petitions for fiscal sense with one of the most unreasonable bevies of laws ever passed.
The court decisions in Arizona and California and irresponsible federal legislation are more than maddening news stories. These events lend stark perspective to America's slipping grasp on the right to self-governance.
Self-determination is one the two main assertions of the Declaration (along with the more famous pronouncement of God-given, unalienable rights). America was to take its "separate and equal station" alongside the world's sovereign countries. No longer would we be subjects to a king, but masters of our destiny.
But today, can we really claim America is being ruled by the American people, particularly during the last two years?
This is not to confuse self-governance with majority rule. Rather, we want the American system of constitutional republicanism. As a nation, we (1) make our own laws (2) through elected representatives, (3) so long as those laws do to not violate God-given natural rights of life, liberty, and property.
America, circa 2010, operates just the opposite on all three counts. Laws are made (1) in defiance of the people, (2) often by unelected bureaucrats or judges and are (3) regularly in violation of our rights to life, liberty, and/or property.
The accelerating pace of America's deconstitutionalization is no coincidence. Over time, the political attacks on our system have become more brazen, while built-in protections have been torn down. We are now in the precarious position of meeting our tyranny's strongest push with freedom's weakest defense (institutionally speaking).
We face a tough road to recapture our vanishing right to self-government. Economist Milton Friedman used to say that he believed that the odds of preserving freedom were far less than 50%, that we might be fighting a losing battle. But he quickly added, "But if it's the right battle, if it's the only alternative to serfdom, then we ought to fight it, and try to convert that 15, 25, 30% chance (whatever it is) into a certainty."
He was right.