Keepers of the Gate

For those us feeling unthankful for the American Revolution, a recent U.K. Guardian column should stimulate our gratitude glands.  The article, which carries the regrettably non-satirical title "Free speech can't exist unchained," provides a pointed criticism of Americans and their silly First Amendment.  "Free speech is a Hobbesian jungle (i.e. ruled by the rich)," grumbles author Simon Jenkins, adding that "[i]t requires a marketplace where the trade in information, ideas and opinion has a framework of rules."  These are rules, no doubt, laid down by our bureaucratic betters in government, the modern equivalent to kings, princes, dukes, and earls.

The Guardian piece reminds us that for Americans, Great Britain has always been a little too comfortable with royalty, aristocracy, and following the "wisdom" of the "wise."  The monarchical concept was always welcome in America.  John Adams -- a bit behind the times after ambassadorships in Europe -- was severely criticized when he suggested royal-sounding titles for U.S. government officials.

Unfortunately for 2011 America, those currently at the helm of the USS Bureaucracy hold the Mother Country's mindset regarding the supremacy of government noblemen.  Though not as rhetorically brazen as the Brits, President Obama and his appointees place almost unquestioning faith in humanity...so long as that humanity toils in the royal halls of a D.C. palace.

This philosophy, sure to be named by future scholars The Divine Right of Bureaus, teaches that government can do no wrong so long as it professes to be checking the power of the powerful.  Believers in the Divine Right presume that among the Super Bowl run-up, new American Idol judges, and preventing their children from watching MTV, Americans are too distracted or too incompetent to protect themselves from wealthy schemers.  Therefore, the duty to dilute concentrations of power falls to government.

Take for example when the Federal Communications Commission made their "Net Neutrality" decision.  Commissioner Michael Copps explained his objective in voting for himself to have vast powers to regulate the internet (from the New York Times):

In a statement, Mr. Copps...said he wanted to ensure that the Internet "doesn't travel down the same road of special interest consolidation and gate-keeper control that other media and telecommunications industries -- radio, television, film and cable -- have traveled."

"What an historic tragedy it would be," he said, "to let that fate befall the dynamism of the Internet."

Yes, nothing says dynamism like multi-thousand-page edicts handed down from a federal bureaucracy.  ("'Pursuant to section 113, except as provided in paragraph 2, this section shall limit the viewing of YouTube clips, subject to the discretion of the Secretary, whose authority is described in section 17783(b),(f) ...' ...Ah, I'll just go read a book.")  Only a big-government agency could look at the most useful and vibrant economic tool in a generation and ask, "How can we fix this?"

More important than Copps' blindness to government's gear-grinding effect on otherwise humming economic engines is his remedy for potential "special interest consolidation."  Copps and his fellow Democrat appointees were willing to bypass Congress and disregard a federal court ruling in order to prevent gatekeepers from controlling the internet.  Their method of prevention: keep the gate.  Like an alcoholic who remedies his hangover with a stiff drink, those faithful to the doctrine of modern-day royal prerogative look out at the world and only see one solution.

This is just like a hundred years ago, when successive progressive presidential administrations saw the world's greatest entrepreneurs amassing history's largest private fortunes and determined to make government the nation's guardian against greed.  The result is an entity with history's most ravenous and unquenchable appetite for money equipped with the power to feed itself.  The federal government's fiscal year budget of $3.8 trillion is larger than all but three national economies (the U.S., Japan, and China) and represents nearly $33,000 per American household (over 60% of the country's median household income).  If the U.S. federal government is not the pinnacle of earthly greed, who or what is?

In protecting Americans from would-be gatekeepers, government has become a thousand times more injurious than the most unscrupulous of Robber Barons.  Something funny happens when citizens transfer power from private to public hands: they never get it back.

Just a few years ago, Blockbuster video was a perfect match for the sinister gatekeeper profile.  The company, backed with billionaire money, swept the country, buying up mom-and-pop video stores on its way to a commanding market share.  Yet last fall, the once-juggernaut filed for bankruptcy.  After Netflix and Redbox revolutionized the video market, it was apparent that Blockbuster's "power" was more perceived than real.  Compare that to Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae.  Almost invisible to the people outside political and finical worlds they inhabited, the two government-sponsored entities nearly led to the destruction of the world financial system.  In return, they received a bipartisan blank check that effectively guarantees that they will thrive into the foreseeable future.

Thus, American life becomes a refresher course in the folly of despotism -- an education so expensive it would make an Ivy League chancellor wince.  At least the British can blame longstanding tradition for their acquiescence to aristocratic wisdom.  What is America's excuse?  It was in Virginia (the most influential American colony) where, in 1775, Patrick Henry implored his fellow convention delegates to fight the British.  Henry ended his speech with the enduring rallying cry "give me liberty."  He then dropped to his knees and, with each word, pounded his chest as if to stab himself through the heart as he added "or give me death."

Top-down aristocratic rule was never inherent to America -- just the opposite.  It is a tragic acquired taste.  The question is whether we can unlearn what we have learned, a process that history teaches is virtually impossible. However, those searching for hope can console themselves in knowing that this wouldn't be the first time America has done the "virtually impossible" -- after all, we won the Revolutionary War.  That's a fact we can all be grateful for.
For those us feeling unthankful for the American Revolution, a recent U.K. Guardian column should stimulate our gratitude glands.  The article, which carries the regrettably non-satirical title "Free speech can't exist unchained," provides a pointed criticism of Americans and their silly First Amendment.  "Free speech is a Hobbesian jungle (i.e. ruled by the rich)," grumbles author Simon Jenkins, adding that "[i]t requires a marketplace where the trade in information, ideas and opinion has a framework of rules."  These are rules, no doubt, laid down by our bureaucratic betters in government, the modern equivalent to kings, princes, dukes, and earls.

The Guardian piece reminds us that for Americans, Great Britain has always been a little too comfortable with royalty, aristocracy, and following the "wisdom" of the "wise."  The monarchical concept was always welcome in America.  John Adams -- a bit behind the times after ambassadorships in Europe -- was severely criticized when he suggested royal-sounding titles for U.S. government officials.

Unfortunately for 2011 America, those currently at the helm of the USS Bureaucracy hold the Mother Country's mindset regarding the supremacy of government noblemen.  Though not as rhetorically brazen as the Brits, President Obama and his appointees place almost unquestioning faith in humanity...so long as that humanity toils in the royal halls of a D.C. palace.

This philosophy, sure to be named by future scholars The Divine Right of Bureaus, teaches that government can do no wrong so long as it professes to be checking the power of the powerful.  Believers in the Divine Right presume that among the Super Bowl run-up, new American Idol judges, and preventing their children from watching MTV, Americans are too distracted or too incompetent to protect themselves from wealthy schemers.  Therefore, the duty to dilute concentrations of power falls to government.

Take for example when the Federal Communications Commission made their "Net Neutrality" decision.  Commissioner Michael Copps explained his objective in voting for himself to have vast powers to regulate the internet (from the New York Times):

In a statement, Mr. Copps...said he wanted to ensure that the Internet "doesn't travel down the same road of special interest consolidation and gate-keeper control that other media and telecommunications industries -- radio, television, film and cable -- have traveled."

"What an historic tragedy it would be," he said, "to let that fate befall the dynamism of the Internet."

Yes, nothing says dynamism like multi-thousand-page edicts handed down from a federal bureaucracy.  ("'Pursuant to section 113, except as provided in paragraph 2, this section shall limit the viewing of YouTube clips, subject to the discretion of the Secretary, whose authority is described in section 17783(b),(f) ...' ...Ah, I'll just go read a book.")  Only a big-government agency could look at the most useful and vibrant economic tool in a generation and ask, "How can we fix this?"

More important than Copps' blindness to government's gear-grinding effect on otherwise humming economic engines is his remedy for potential "special interest consolidation."  Copps and his fellow Democrat appointees were willing to bypass Congress and disregard a federal court ruling in order to prevent gatekeepers from controlling the internet.  Their method of prevention: keep the gate.  Like an alcoholic who remedies his hangover with a stiff drink, those faithful to the doctrine of modern-day royal prerogative look out at the world and only see one solution.

This is just like a hundred years ago, when successive progressive presidential administrations saw the world's greatest entrepreneurs amassing history's largest private fortunes and determined to make government the nation's guardian against greed.  The result is an entity with history's most ravenous and unquenchable appetite for money equipped with the power to feed itself.  The federal government's fiscal year budget of $3.8 trillion is larger than all but three national economies (the U.S., Japan, and China) and represents nearly $33,000 per American household (over 60% of the country's median household income).  If the U.S. federal government is not the pinnacle of earthly greed, who or what is?

In protecting Americans from would-be gatekeepers, government has become a thousand times more injurious than the most unscrupulous of Robber Barons.  Something funny happens when citizens transfer power from private to public hands: they never get it back.

Just a few years ago, Blockbuster video was a perfect match for the sinister gatekeeper profile.  The company, backed with billionaire money, swept the country, buying up mom-and-pop video stores on its way to a commanding market share.  Yet last fall, the once-juggernaut filed for bankruptcy.  After Netflix and Redbox revolutionized the video market, it was apparent that Blockbuster's "power" was more perceived than real.  Compare that to Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae.  Almost invisible to the people outside political and finical worlds they inhabited, the two government-sponsored entities nearly led to the destruction of the world financial system.  In return, they received a bipartisan blank check that effectively guarantees that they will thrive into the foreseeable future.

Thus, American life becomes a refresher course in the folly of despotism -- an education so expensive it would make an Ivy League chancellor wince.  At least the British can blame longstanding tradition for their acquiescence to aristocratic wisdom.  What is America's excuse?  It was in Virginia (the most influential American colony) where, in 1775, Patrick Henry implored his fellow convention delegates to fight the British.  Henry ended his speech with the enduring rallying cry "give me liberty."  He then dropped to his knees and, with each word, pounded his chest as if to stab himself through the heart as he added "or give me death."

Top-down aristocratic rule was never inherent to America -- just the opposite.  It is a tragic acquired taste.  The question is whether we can unlearn what we have learned, a process that history teaches is virtually impossible. However, those searching for hope can console themselves in knowing that this wouldn't be the first time America has done the "virtually impossible" -- after all, we won the Revolutionary War.  That's a fact we can all be grateful for.

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