FT98: “The difference between a right and an entitlement is that other people don’t have to pay for a right.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 30th, 2011

Fundamental Truth

Our Rights are Free to Enjoy because no one must Suffer any Burden for us to Enjoy these Rights

The Roman Empire fell because of high taxes.  The Americans declared their independence from the British Empire because of high taxes.  The French Revolution erupted over high taxes.  Warren Harding won the 1920 presidential election because of high taxes.  Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election because of high taxes.  Both Harding and Reagan were tax cutters.  The moral of this story?  People don’t like paying taxes.  Never have.  And never will.

The Bill of Rights contains the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Some of these rights include the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech (First Amendment).  The right to keep and bear arms (Second Amendment).  Protection from quartering troops in our homes (Third Amendment).  Protection from unreasonable search and seizure (Fourth Amendment).  See a trend?

Our rights are free to enjoy.  That is, when we enjoy our rights it doesn’t cost anyone else.  When people speak their mind there isn’t an associated cost that goes with it that we must fund with taxes.  For people to be free to own a gun and keep it in their house there isn’t an associated tax to pay for that right.  There isn’t a line item in the federal budget to prevent soldiers from moving into my house during times of peace.  No.  These rights are free.  No one must suffer any burden for us to enjoy these rights.

A Right is not a License to Compel Others to do something Against their Will

Rights are God-given.  Meaning that no person may deny these rights to anyone.  We want these rights.  We enjoy these rights.  And the fact that they don’t cost anything to have and enjoy is especially nice.  Because as noted earlier people don’t like paying taxes.  They never have.  And never will.

But we do pay taxes.  For those things that are necessary and Constitutional.  Such as a strong military to protect and defend our country from enemies foreign and domestic.  We don’t enjoy paying these taxes.  But we do enjoy being safe and free from oppression.  So we can enjoy our Constitutional rights.

Now, when is a right not a right?  When it’s not guaranteed in our Constitution and/or there is a cost that others must bear.  For instance, I can’t go to an electronics store and take a large plasma TV and tell the clerk that it’s my right to have that TV.  Because it’s not a right.  (Or an entitlement.  Yet.)  Why?  For one it’s not in the Constitution.  And it’s not just because we didn’t invent them yet.  Even if they were around at the time of the framing of the Constitution the Founding Fathers would not have included them.  Because they have a cost.  For someone to have one as a right someone else must pay for it.  And if someone else must be compelled to provide something for you then it is not a right.  Because a right is not a license to compel others to do something against their will.  There’s another name for that.  Slavery.

Health Care, Pensions, Food, etc., are not Rights because they have Costs

So if you agree with me so far (and it would be hard not to if you’re being honest), then you must agree that housing, health care, pensions, food, etc., are not rights either.  Because they have costs.  And the only way for others to have these without paying for them is to compel others to pay for them against their will.  Which is, of course, slavery.  Something else that is forbidden by a Constitutional amendment.  The Thirteenth Amendment.

So providing these things to the poor is not and should not be required.  But it would be nice.  And it should be voluntary.  Like it was.  Once upon a time.  Before there were entitlements.  We called it charity.  And it worked.  Well.  Our ancestors, those beautiful rugged individualists, would laugh at us today for how we’ve made a mess of things.  Be disgusted to see how soft we’ve become.  And then probably spit on us with contempt.

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The Egyptian Military Suspends their Constitution while some here can only Dream

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 13th, 2011

A Military Coup by any other Name

The Army’s in charge in Egypt (see Military rulers suspend Egyptian constitution by Marwa Awad and Dina Zayed posted 2/13/2011 on Reuters).

Egypt’s new military rulers said on Sunday they had dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and would govern only for six months or until elections took place, following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

As bad as this sounds, the military is the stable force in Egypt.  They’ve pledged to honor Egypt’s treaties during their rule.  Israel welcomed this news.  As did many governments in the region.  Perhaps the military will be able to win the peace.  Much like our Founding Fathers did after their revolution.  Time will tell.  We hope for the best for the Egyptian people.  The region.  And the world.

The Intent of the Constitution was to Oppress the People?

Suspend the constitution?  You know there are some here in the United States that would like to suspend the Constitution.  To hear some talk about the Constitution, the Founding Fathers were nothing but a bunch of racist, sexist, slave-owning bigots.  And these people mock the Tea Party people for all of their constitutional talk (see What “original intent” would look like by David Schultz posted 2/13/2011 on Salon).

Tea Partiers would be surprised how little freedom they’d have if we read the Constitution literally.

I dare say more people in the Tea Party have read the Constitution than those who argue against them.  Those on the left always say we need to take things in context.  When discussing barbaric customs of some indigenous people.  Or even the right to choose.  We can’t remove the context of environment and/or custom from these things.  But we can when it comes to our founding.

It wasn’t a perfect world in 1787.  We had just defeated the British Empire in a war that lasted 8 years.  And the people were in no mood to replace one central power with another.  Getting a national constitution wasn’t easy.  There were many conflicting interests.  And the states just wanted to go back to the way things were before the Revolution.

But when the Confederation Congress couldn’t pass a ‘national’ tariff over the objection of a single state that benefited well under the status quo, they had to do something.  If the new nation was to survive.  Few nations thought we would.  Some were just waiting in the wings for the collapse.  It was primarily those who served in the military that pushed the idea of nationhood along.  They fought alongside men from different states in a unified army.  These were the first ones to think as Americans.  And it was one man in particular, a retired George Washington, who brought the men together in Philadelphia in that hot and muggy summer in 1787.

It wasn’t easy.  States didn’t want to give up power.  They feared consolidation.  The states didn’t want some faraway seat of power telling them how to conduct their business.  In the context of the times, there was no nation. There were states.  Sovereign states.  Working together in a confederation.  Yes, they understood there were things a national government could do better (coin money, treat with foreign nations, build and maintain a military force, etc.).  But they were leery giving this new central government any power for fear that once they did, there would be no end to this transfer of power.  So the Founding Fathers developed federalism.  Shared sovereignty.  Most of the power would remain with the states.  And only those things strictly enumerated would go to the federal government. 

To begin with, the original document was silent on the right to vote. Voting rights were largely a matter of state law, and in 1787 most states limited the franchise to white, male, Protestant property owners, age 21 or older. The original Constitution did not allow for direct popular voting for president or the United States Senate, and there was no clear language even allowing for voting for members of the House of Representatives.

In the context of the times, white protestant males were the only people voting in the British world.  And Americans came from British stock.  No surprise here.  And a popular vote was not included for a very good reason.  The Founding Fathers feared a pure democracy.  Because once people learn they can vote themselves the treasury, they do.  Also, the states wanted to make sure their interests were represented in the central government.  That’s why state legislators were to elect their senators.  To keep a short leash on the new central government. 

The original Constitution didn’t include a Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers and authors of the Federalist Papers, argued against it. The Bill of Rights protects many rights the Tea Party considers hallowed, such as the freedom of speech and assembly and a right to bear arms. Lacking a Bill of Rights, these freedoms wouldn’t be protected against limitation by the national government.

The reason why they argued against a Bill of Rights was that they said they didn’t need it.  The Constitution enumerated the powers of the new central government.  Anything not enumerated was a power retained by the states.  The fear was that if they included a Bill of Rights and forgot to include a right then that right wouldn’t be protected.  But a Bill of Rights became conditional for ratification by some states.  James Madison opposed it (for the reasons just mentioned) but worked tirelessly to include it.  Because he and Hamilton knew it was the price of ratification.

Most importantly, as written, the Bill of Rights limited only national power — not state power

Again, the Constitution was all about limiting the power of the federal government.  It had nothing to do with limiting states’ powers.  No state would have ratified if it did.  This is the concept of federalism.  To keep Big Government small.  The states had their own constitutions.  And if a state became too oppressive, people could move to a state that wasn’t. 

And then there’s the matter of slavery. Article I, Section 1 of the original Constitution permitted slavery and the slave trade… Slavery did not end until the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

I believe that was Section 2 of Article 1.  And the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave.  But I’m nitpicking.  Again, historical context.  Slavery and Social Security have a little in common.  One is a failed institution.  The other is about to fail.  And the cost to fix or undo them is/was absolutely prohibitive.  And socially undoable. 

Article I, Section 9 did address the slave trade by agreeing to table it for 20 years.  It was the only way to get the southern states to join the union.  Because emancipation would wipe out close to have of the equity on many southern balance sheets.   Though immoral, the institution of slavery was legal.  Ending it would simply destroy the southern economy.  Much like what happened after the American Civil War when northern carpetbaggers came down and bought properties at fire-sale prices.  So there is a reason why the Founding Fathers didn’t address slavery more in the Constitution.  Because it wasn’t as easy to fix as Social Security.

And let’s not forget Alexander Hamilton, who argued against the need for a bill of rights and in favor of judicial review. The famous “Report on Manufactures” and “Report on Public Credit” he prepared as George Washington’s treasury secretary argued for an expansive federal government role in assisting the economy — hardly something the Tea Party constitutionalist would endorse.

Hamilton worked in business at a very young age.  And he was in awe of the British Empire.  Of their wealth and power.  He wanted an American Empire.  He wanted to jumpstart American industry.  And wanted to use a tool familiar to him.  Mercantilism.  It was the way the great empires became great.  In the British Empire, America was a supplier of raw goods.  We had no manufacturing base to speak of.  Hamilton wanted to use government to build one fast.  Today government wants to control the economy.  Hamilton wanted to create an economy where there was none.  There’s a bit of a difference.

It should be clear that many of the liberties and rights today’s Tea Partiers demand and benefit from just didn’t exist in the original form of the Constitution. It took many amendments and clarification from the courts to secure them. On top of that, if the ideal the Tea Party espouses ever was realized, it would just mean the states would have more authority to suppress rights.

The amendment process was part of the original Constitution.  The authors provided the means to change the Constitution.  They just didn’t make it very easy.  Unlike a court ruling, many people would have to agree to a change.  Not just a partisan few.  Or a partisan judge.

The Tea Party gets it.  It’s those who rail against them that don’t.

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