Monthly Archives: May 2012

Understanding Money and the Taxing Authority under the Constitution

Taxation was an essential aspect of the Colonists disagreements with the British Crown.  A long list of taxes imposed upon colonists was one factor leading to the United Colonies declaring independence and separating from Britain.

The federal government is one of specific limited powers delegated by the people through their states by ratifying the Constitution.  Below are the relevant sections of the Constitution related to money and the government’s taxing authority.

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.  Note this was modified by the 14th amendment.

Article 1, Section 8 (General purpose of the section, Clause 1, and Clause 4)

Introduction to Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Clause 1:

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

Clause 4:

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standards of Weights and Measures;

Article I, Section 9, Clause 4

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

Taxing Authority under the Constitution

One of the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation was the federal government’s lack of any taxing authority.  Under the AoC, the federal government had to request funds from the several states.  In some cases states would comply and in other cases states would not comply.  The federal government was entirely dependent upon each state to contribute to the federal government.

To address the AoC shortcoming the states delegated powers to the federal government  to lay taxes in the form of duties, imposts, and excises.  This was the primary method the federal government used to raise revenue.  The introduction to Article 1, Section 8 is one of the most abused and misunderstood parts of the Constitution.

The introduction provides a description as to the purpose of the section.  At a high level it describes the taxing authority and the limitations on which those taxes may be used.   “Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises” is used to introduce the reader to the powers the section contains regarding taxing authority.  Also, when a power is granted in the Constitution the word “To” is capitalized.

It then goes on to describe the limitations of the taxing authority “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general welfare of the United States”.  These are restrictions on how taxes could be used. Note, the word “to” is in lowercase because it’s not a power rather it is the object on which the power would operate.   Also noteworthy, this section of this clause is what is referred to as the “general welfare” clause and is often cited by living-breathing constitutionalists as a plenary grant of power to spend on anything that may be considered general welfare.  While it’s beyond the purpose of this article to explain the purpose of the general welfare clause, you can read a detailed article here.  Briefly, I’ll say this is a restrictive clause meant to ensure that any of the enumerated powers in Article 1, Section 8 are not used to benefit one person, group of people, a specific geographical area, etc.  In other words, it must benefit all of the United States.

Lastly, what is known as a provision (provisio) is included as well.  The provision reads “but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”.   The provision requires that any taxes laid and collected as a Duty, Impost, or Excise must be uniform throughout the United States.   The provision prevents Congress from indiscriminately laying a tax.  For example, the federal government collects an excise tax on every gallon of gasoline.  The provision prohibits Congress from collecting an excise tax of 20 cents per gallon of gasoline from those in the Northeast and a tax of 40 cents per gallon of gasoline from those on the West Coast.

Besides duties, imposts, and excises the federal government was delegated the power to lay direct taxes under Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3.  In this section, both representation and taxation are tightly coupled for reasons that should be obvious.  Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 requires all direct taxes to be laid according to census or enumeration.   Direct taxes were not imposed on the people directly.  Instead, direct taxes were determined based upon representation (which is based on the census) and the states were levied the direct tax.  If one state had 10% of the representation that state would be assessed 10% of the direct tax.  Likewise, if another state had 1% of the representation that state would be assessed 1% of the direct tax.  Every state retained the autonomy to determine how to collect that tax from the citizens of the state and then remit payment to the Treasury.  Throughout the history of the United States direct taxes were levied on the states on five occasions.

At the time of ratification the state conventions and the framers intended to use duties, imposts, and excises to raise revenues to support the government.  Direct taxes were generally understood to be necessary in special circumstances.  In both cases, the Constitution limited the power of Congress to lay these taxes uniformly.

Money (currency) under the Constitution

An understanding of how the founding generation viewed and understood money is necessary to better understand how money is viewed today and the relationship with the taxing authority.  During the revolutionary period the Continental Congress was the operating authority amongst the United Colonies.  While there was an Articles of Association, a government wasn’t actually formalized until the ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781.  The Continental Congress had no taxing authority and could not borrow money.  The Continental Congress printed money called Continentals.

The Revolutionary War was funded by the printing of Continentals which was done frequently throughout the war.  The value of the Continentals declined in value because they were being printed out of thin air.  In 1779, George Washington wrote a letter to John Jay, president of the Continental Congress, saying: “In the last place, though first in importance, I shall ask, is there anything doing, or that can be done, to restore the credit of our currency?  The depreciation of it is got to so alarming a point that a wagon-load of money will scarcely purchase a wagon-load of provisions.”  The continual debasement of the currency led to the saying, “it’s not worth a continental”.

Under the Articles of Confederation states did emit their own money.  There were competing currencies in each of the states whether these were struck coins or paper money.  Some states debased their currency while others acted more responsibly.  For instance, Rhode Island debased their currency to the point where creditors would not accept it.  The state passed debt-currency laws requiring creditors to accept Rhode Island currency under penalty of the law.  These issues with debt, payment, currency debasement, etc. were the primary drivers behind the powers delegated to the federal government under the Constitution.

The three primary money related issues were; borrowing money, emitting paper money, and striking coins (coined money).  Under the Constitution, the Congress was delegated powers to borrow money against the credit of the United States and to strike coins.  The states did not delegate powers to Congress to print money.  Fresh in their minds were the experiences with the Continental and with state issued paper money.  In fact, in Madison’s notes on the constitutional convention there was debate on this very issue.  In the original draft the power to print money was included.  Debates on this topic happened on August 16, 1787.

The vote at the convention on the issue to strike out the words “and emit bills” was 10 for and 2 against.  Madison was opposed to this change initially but acquiesced.  The reason Madison acquiesced was “Mr. Madison was satisfied that striking out the words would not disable the Govt. from the use of public notes as far as they could be safe & proper; & would only cut off the pretext for a paper currency,  and particularly for making the bills a tender either for public or private debts.”

It is important what Madison said:   This would cut off the pretext of a paper currency and for making the paper a tender either for public or private debts.

In fact, currency debasement was a vitally important issue to the founding generation.  So much so, that the first Congress under the Constitution passed the Coinage Act of 1792.  A link to the full text of the act can be found here.  The act established the grains of gold and silver in coin, the value of gold and silver and the ratio between the two metals (bimetallism) and the punishment for debasing coins.   This is from the actual law itself “every such officer or person who shall commit any or either of the said offenses, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death.”  The punishment for debasing the currency was death.  The Coinage Act of 1792 was repealed under the Johnson administration in 1964.  The next year’s coins (think silver dimes, dollars, etc.) no longer contained all silver to the specified weights in the coinage act of 1792.

If the Constitution prohibited paper currency, how do we have paper currency today and how did paper money become legal tender?   The Legal Tender Act of 1862 was passed to meet currency needs during the civil war.  The law authorized the issue of $150 million Greenbacks that was not backed by any specie.  The currency was backed by government bonds.  Overall, roughly $450 million of Greenbacks were issued.  The currency depreciated over the course of the war and after the war debts could be paid with this cheaper currency.  A case reached the Supreme Court which ruled the Legal Tender Act unconstitutional as it violated the 5th amendment.  President Ulysses S. Grant was angered by this and increased the size of the Supreme Court from 7 justices to 9 justices and appointed two justices to the court to overturn the earlier case.

The entire concept of money and taxation has been turned inside out by the Supreme Court in the legal tender cases, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, the sixteenth amendment, and the removal of gold as backing of the federal reserve note (domestically in 1933, and internationally in 1971).  The very reason the states delegated powers to the federal government to coin money and to regulate the value thereof, and prohibited the federal government from printing paper money was to ensure the currency wouldn’t be debased like it was with the Continental or by various states of the Union.

The ultimate contradiction comes into play when you consider the government’s new found authority to print paper money without the backing of specie and the government’s taxing authority.  If you recall, the intent of the original taxing authority was to raise revenues through duties, imposts, and excise taxes.  Direct taxes were generally understood to be necessary in cases of emergency (i.e. to pay off debts or fund wars).  Why does the government need the power to tax, to borrow, and to print?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Why does the government need the authority to tax citizens if it can simply print money at will?  Why does the government need to tax and print?  There is an answer to this question that is not obvious to most people.  Pay attention to The Forgotten Men’s Facebook page as this will be a topic of discussion and we’ll see if you know the answer.

If we remove the ability to tax then the government can only print which is merely the situation under the Continental Congress in 1776 when they had no taxing authority and could only print money.  We know that was a failure.  We know the states printing money was a failure.  So, why does anyone believe the currency can survive if the government prints money?  The only reason why the Constitution granted the authority to tax and to prohibit paper money was to ensure the government could raise revenue not just create money out of thin air.  Remember the slogan, “it’s not worth a Continental”.  Well today’s slogan should be “it’s not worth a dollar”.

The country is worse off now because not only can the government tax anything, they can borrow money, and they can print money at will.  The very government instituted by the Constitution to eliminate certain pitfalls is empowered to partake in all these destructive acts.   A system that allows the government to create $16 trillion of debt, print money at will, and tax the people for everything and anything is a government that was not instituted by the consent of the governed nor is it a government that protects life, liberty, and property.

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Political Paradigms are False Dichotomies

Political paradigms are simply dichotomies meant to categorize people into groups according to political or economic thought.  Most people, including myself, have fallen into this trap of elevating individuals into groups.  Political strategies are designed to leverage the group or herd mentality.  These strategies are powerful because people self-identify with others and the group reaffirms the mentality of its members.

Some of the more common paradigms are; left/right, liberal/conservative, progressive/conservative, big government/capitalism, democrat/republican.   Class, race, and gender discussions are framed similarly.  The one paradigm that is most prevalent this year is Romney vs. Obama.  The Anyone But Obama (ABO) or just get my guy mentality is common place.  Both candidates are presented as political opposites on a variety of issues.  However, one candidate is a Marxist/socialist presented as a centrist while the other is a centrist presented as a conservative.

Is there a really a difference between Romney and Obama.?

The answer is both yes and no.  Let me explain by looking at a short-term and long-term view.

Short-Term View

In the short-term government policies may – and I stress may – make some minor differences.  There may be reduced spending and lower annual deficits.  Perhaps taxes will remain constant or lower than today’s level.  Perhaps ObamaCare will be repealed.  Perhaps more oil exploration and drilling will occur in or around the U.S.  Perhaps there may be less regulations under Romney than Obama.  Perhaps the next president will appoint one or more Supreme Court justices.  I understand the logic and the argument.

Nearly every policy issue is presented as a dichotomy which is really a false set of choices.  Health care is presented as throw granny off a cliff or support government health care.  The government surveillance state is presented as we are doing this to keep you safe or terrorists will kill you.  Spending is presented as starving the children or increase spending, deficits, and the national debt.  These are false choices.  It is a form of propaganda.  It is meant to control your thoughts, invoke emotion rather than rational thought, and to submit to government authority.

Does the possibility of short term gains outweigh the long-term implications?  Ultimately, whether you are right or wrong on the short-term view is irrelevant.  A brief reprisal under a Romney presidency pales in comparison to the long-term implications.

Long-Term View

Romney and Obama, Democrats and Republicans ignore the 400 pound gorilla in the room.  The issue transcends this presidential election.  Our current monetary and banking system is in the winter of its life.  The dollar’s demise is inevitable under the current monetary system.  Our productive life is spent earning Federal Reserve Notes (a.k.a. dollars) which have no intrinsic value, are used to buy things of value, and any excess is our savings/wealth.

The national debt and the unfunded liabilities are also denominated in very same currency that we earn and save.  Economic growth is no longer predicated upon production of real goods and services.  Investment in productive economic activities is no longer funded through loaning profits or savings; it is done by issuing debt.  Economic growth depends upon credit expansion by the consumer and the government.   The central bankers print money to feed government’s insatiable appetite for deficit spending.  The base money supply is expanded without a corresponding increase in real goods and services which diminishes purchasing power due to inflation.  The immediate effect is higher prices for goods and services.  The longer term effect is the erosion of savings and wealth as purchasing power is reduced.

The national debt is nearly 16 trillion dollars.  The unfunded liabilities are estimated in the range of 70 trillion dollars on the low end to 200 trillion dollars on the high end.  Through the Ponzi schemes — better known as Social Security and Medicare — millions of Americans are dependent on the government for monthly checks and medical care while forcing younger people to contribute to a system doomed to implode.

Taxes do not provide sufficient revenues to the government to balance the current deficits.  If you increased the tax rate on all income above $250,000 by 20% it would result in an additional $300 billion in revenue.  A corresponding 20% reduction in spending would leave the government with a deficit of $400-$500 billion.  The national debt continues to grow.  By 2020, entitlement spending forecasts will exceed 4 trillion dollars a year.

The central bankers zero interest rate policy exacerbates the problem.  First, it sends a signal to politicians that deficit spending will be cheap because interest rates are suppressed.  In other words, the central bankers control the cost of money.  Secondly, it punishes savers because the interest rate on savings is below 1%.  Once real inflation is factored in anyone with money in a savings account is losing 4-6% annually in real terms.  As a result of this policy savers look to alternatives such as equity and bond markets, commodities, futures markets, precious metals, etc.  For most this means the casino known as the stock market.  Moreover, if interest rates returned to their historical average of 5-6% the interest payments on the national debt would quadruple from $250 billion annually to $1 trillion annually.

This is a losing proposition to the average person.  If you spend everything you earn you have no savings, no store of wealth.  You are dependent upon the government in your older years for social security and Medicare (which means you are dependent upon younger people working and having their money confiscated to continue the Ponzi).  If you are able to save you are punished due to the central bank’s zero interest rate policy or you must find alternative investments that carry more risk.  If you have managed to save money in some manner the purchasing power is eroded because the central bank prints money causing inflation.  For nearly every American there is not a viable alternative to escape the government and central banker monetary and currency death trap.

This brings me back to the dichotomies presented through political paradigms.  Both Republicans and Democrats perpetuate these paradigms.  They are false paradigms.  The political parties, the main stream media, and many of you shoulder responsibility for perpetuating them.  This is not a right vs. left, liberal vs. conservative, or democrat vs. republican dichotomy.

It is a dichotomy of liberty vs. slavery, freedom vs. oppression, natural rights vs. government granted rights, citizens vs. subjects, servants vs. rulers, free markets vs. centrally planned economy, consent of the governed vs. tyranny, the rule of law vs. the rule of man, the right to self-determination vs. arbitrary power, and hard money vs. fiat money.  These are the real paradigms that matter and nobody wants to discuss them.

If past is prologue, do you believe a Romney or an Obama presidency will address this issue?  If – and that’s a big if – you are better off under Romney, do you believe the issue with our currency, monetary system, national debt, and unfunded liabilities will be addressed?  Pay no attention to the 400lb. gorilla in the room.  Move along.

Conclusion

In the short-term view perhaps some things may be better.  In the long-term view, there is no difference between Romney and Obama as neither has any intention to stand up to the 400lb. gorilla in the room.  Nobody wants to face reality and swallow the bitter pill.  Neither candidate is the answer.  Neither the candidates nor the American people have the will to swallow the bitter pill.  Instead, the fraudulent, corrupt system will be maintained and extended until it collapses.  Those dependent on government programs will demand their share right up to the very end.  The benefit pie will shrink and the dependents will fight over the few remaining crumbs while sacrificing anything and everything.  Most people will use the customary political paradigms to blame the other side.

This is not how free people live.  The issue transcends political parties and traditional left/right paradigms.

This story reads like Dickens.  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

We the people need to understand what is transpiring before our very eyes.  We are living through the destruction of our currency, the monetary system, and the economy.  Conventional wisdom and false paradigms must be discarded.

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Managed Socialism

In rethinking the American Union I struggled with finding a term or definition that accurately describes government in the 21st century.  Terms from a bygone era such as representative democracy, republic, or aristocracy miss the mark.  The term “inverted totalitarianism”, coined by political philosopher Sheldin Wolin, comes to mind.  But that too misses the mark in my opinion.

Our modern day government and political system is what I call “Managed  Socialism”.  This may change over time to Managed Totalitarianism or something else, but I think the current state of affairs is aptly characterized by the term Managed Socialism.  What are the key components of this system?  After much thought I’ve condensed the list to six specific components:

1)       Maintain the illusion of legitimacy.  This is done under the guise of elections and representative government.  If the people vote the government is therefore legitimate regardless of the laws or policies enacted.  Moreover, low voter turnout (i.e. 50%) ensures the people remain complacent and apathetic.  Representative government in modern times is a far cry from representative government envisioned by the founding generation.  Originally, there was one representative for every thirty thousand people.  Today, that ratio is one representative for every seven hundred fifty thousand people.  This is not representative government.  If the original ratio of representatives to people were adhered to we’d have approximately 10,333 representatives in the House of Representatives.  Now, if you apply today’s ratio to that of the founding generation there would have been 5 representatives in the House of Representatives.  In fact, there would have been less representatives than there were Senators. Undoubtedly, the founding generation would not consider this representative government.

2)      Propaganda and mass media control – Under the guise of an open system that supposedly advocates for freedom of speech, the government, political parties, and the main stream media corporations control information.  The content, messages, and meanings are either suppressed or managed for a desired effect.  Any attempt to speak out, protest or otherwise question the authority of the government is marginalized, trivialized, or demonized publicly as violent, racist, extremist, etc.

3)      Party Politics – Two political parties with opposing views and policies while working to protect their power and the status quo.  Neither party represents constitutionally limited government or federalism.  Neither party protects unalienable rights.  Neither party protects property rights.  One party gives us Medicare Part D the other gives us ObamaCare.  One party gives us No Child Left Behind the other gives us Race to the Top.  Both parties bailed out the banks and the banking system and transferred the debt to the public.  Both parties continue the Ponzi schemes known as Social Security and Medicare.  Both parties support the TSA, and pass laws like NDAA.

4)      Maintain an illusion of freedom – Government centrally manages critical components of the economy (i.e. money supply and interest rates), enacts laws or implements regulations to restrict or constrain certain free market choices, or eliminates/subsidizes entire industries and businesses to advance their ideology, further entrench themselves in the political system, or to secure votes from some voting block.  Moreover, under the pretenses of a Constitution, the government itself acts as sole and final arbiter of its own powers through a judiciary claiming independence and fidelity to the Constitution, while blessing acts that are in conflict and violation of the Constitution.

5)      Intimidation and Fear – The mere threat of arrest, fines, prison, or indefinite detention is the powerful tool wielded by government to ensure compliance and obedience to any government law, act, rule, or regulation.  The TSA, EPA, FDA, FCC, ATF, IRS, etc. are agencies that use the brute force of government authority to demand compliance.

6)      Confluence of Corporate and Government Interests – A two-way street where corporations use the power of government and the law to further their interests, and where politicians accept donations in return.  Pay-to-play politics that pits government and corporate interests against the citizen.  Government bailouts, subsidizes (grants, tax breaks, credits, loans) are sweeteners to ensure a political outcome.  Rules and regulations are used to control and manage the economy and environment to ensure a political outcome.  The tight integration between the government and The Federal Reserve bank results in a top-down, centrally planned economy and banking system run for the benefit of a few and the detriment of society on the whole.

The illusion of a free society is more powerful than a totalitarian regime imprisoning or killing people.  The illusion of a free society that voluntarily enslaves themselves to their government masters is more powerful than traditional slavery.  Why use physical force on people when government provides the illusion of legitimacy through free elections and the people voluntarily enslave themselves.  Is there any better system of slavery than a voluntary system of slavery?

Those that are not compliant, obedient, or question their government masters find themselves threatened with fines and prison to force acceptable behavior.  Those that dare to exercise their unalienable rights to associate, assemble, or speech are marginalized and demonized by the media and government.  Those that dare to demand adherence to the Constitution – the rule of law – are mocked and trivialized as some sort of historical creature unable to adapt and cope with modern day society.  Those that stand up for individual rights, liberty, and property rights they are called selfish and greedy.

Those that refuse to comply with unjust laws are fined, imprisoned, or killed.  Does this sound a bit extreme?  Is my statement a bit over the top?  Try to do any of the following:

1)      Refuse a TSA pat down or screening.

2)      Refuse to pay taxes for unconstitutional government (which is most of the government).

3)      Refuse to pay property taxes (are you the rightful owner of your property or not).

4)      Refuse to comply with EPA regulations.

5)      Refuse to comply with FDA regulations.

6)      Try to produce or consume raw milk (you may get away with it but you are violating the law).

7)      Try to use the light bulb of your choice (you may get away with it but you are violating the law).

8)      Try to produce vegetables on your property and sell them at a roadside stand (this can be regulated).

9)      Refuse to buy government mandated health insurance (assuming ObamaCare is upheld).

10)   Use your property in any way you deem appropriate (i.e. put in a chicken coop, put in a pool, etc.).  Regulations prohibit activities and permits are required to build on your own property.

We are told where we can live, what we can and can’t do with our property, property is confiscated for unconstitutional purposes, we are told what we can and can’t consume (eat, drink, etc.), we are told what kinds of products we can and can’t use (light bulbs, shower heads, toilets, septic systems, automobiles – the list goes on ad nauseum), whether we can or cannot own a firearm or specific types of firearms, children are forced to attend government indoctrination centers (i.e. public schools), etc., etc., etc.  The money supply and the cost of money (i.e. interest rates) are controlled by central planners.  Disinformation and propaganda is disseminated to confuse and frustrate the people.  Television shows, movies, sports, etc. are used as the modern day bread and circuses to entertain and distract the people from the real issues.  Elections are held to provide legitimacy to the corrupt system now in place.

Because we are allowed a certain amount of freedom and choice people comply with unjust, draconian laws robbing us of our humanity, dignity, and unalienable rights.  This violates the ideal of popular sovereignty (the consent of the governed) as the people do not consent to unlimited submission to a powerful centralized government.  Self-determination and self-governance means the people decide how to best govern themselves.  Representative government does not mean one person represents 750,000 people.

Our free society is a cleverly disguised system meant to manage, control, and exercise dominion over the people under a veil of legitimacy.  And, I call it Managed Socialism.

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Uncomfortable Truths or Comforting Lies: Life on the Government Plantation

Last week’s article provides the foundational constructs for the assertions and conclusions found herein.  If you did not read last week’s article, stop reading.  Read last week’s article first then come back and read this one.  This article touches on several topics; some loosely coupled and others tightly coupled.  While mankind has progressed tremendously since our founding, the country has regressed detrimentally in regards to natural rights, individual rights and liberty, property rights, consent of the governed, limited government, and the rule of law.

Who owns you?  Who owns your body?  Who owns your life?  Hopefully, everyone believes they are the owners of their lives and body.  To believe someone else owns your body or your life is to believe in some form of slavery.

Undoubtedly the word slavery conjures up thoughts and images of white plantation owners forcing blacks to work for them, treating them as property — chattel.  While race was the issue in slavery as we know it in the United States, race isn’t the only factor.  Slavery has been a worldwide issue for thousands of years.  Women and children have been forced into slavery.  Ethnic groups have been forced into slavery.  Certain religious believers have been forced into slavery.

Some dictionary definitions of slavery and the conditions of slavery are:

  • Involuntary subjugation of a person to another or others.
  • Severe toil; drudgery.
  • A state of subjugation or captivity often involving burdensome and degrading labor.
  • Submission to a dominating influence.

The one common thread across all forms of slavery is forcing a person to labor against their will for the benefit of another (or others).  It is a condition where a person or group of people have absolute power over a person’s life and liberty.  Certainly, if slavery is wrong when based on race, it must be wrong when based on ethnicity, gender, age, or religious beliefs.  There is simply no justification for slavery.

We can all conclude slavery is inhumane, immoral, vile, and disgusting.  Under no circumstances can civil society condone slavery in any form.

Last week’s article established every individual is responsible for preserving their life.  To preserve life one must produce.  What one produces is one’s property.  Therefore, the absolute right to property is fundamental, transcendent, and immutable as it is how every individual preserves his life.

The Law by Frederic Bastiat reveals the naked truth on property and plunder.  Bastiat wrote:

Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property. 

But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder. 

It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.  But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.  Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.

It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder. What are the consequences of such a perversion?  In the first place, it erases from everyone’s conscience the distinction between justice and injustice.  No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them.

The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are “just” because law makes them so. Thus, in order to make plunder appear just and sacred to many consciences, it is only necessary for the law to decree and sanction it. Slavery, restrictions, and monopoly find defenders not only among those who profit from them but also among those who suffer from them.

French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville’s seminal work, Democracy in America, makes several astute observations regarding individuals and the American political system.  De Tocqueville says:

Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom. Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.  When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education . . . the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint . . . . It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. . . . they neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.

It is above all in the present democratic age that the true friends of liberty and human grandeur must remain constantly vigilant and ready to prevent the social power from lightly sacrificing the particular rights of a few individuals to the general execution of its designs. In such times there is no citizen so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed, and there are no individual rights so unimportant that they can be sacrificed to arbitrariness with impunity.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Bastait and De Tocqueville share some common themes in their writing.  Both refer to justice and the law.  Both refer to the use of the law for legal plunder.  Both refer to the individual as the rightful master of their own destiny; the master of their rights, life, liberty, and property.

In 21st century America legal plunder is the new norm.  Not only is legal plunder acceptable, both political parties partake in the enterprise and benefit from it.  Under the veil of legitimacy, the illusion that the law is sacred, and that any law is the supreme law of the land the people concede, willingly or through ignorance and apathy, the very things that make us human and unique individuals.  The politicians use sophistry, deception, manipulation, and lies to consolidate power into one central authority consisting of a few hundred people.  They no longer function as a fiduciary, a public trustee, and an agent and guardian of the people.  Certainly, the cabal has no interest in preserving individual rights, life, liberty, and property rights.

Recall, the one common thread across all forms of slavery is forcing a person to labor against their will for the benefit of another.  It is a condition where one person or group of people have absolute power over a person’s life and liberty.  There is no justification for slavery.

If at any time someone or some entity forces you to work and then confiscates whatever you produce you are a slave.  If someone takes half of what you produce you are half a slave.  If someone takes one day’s worth of what you produce you’re a slave for a day.  That is the very definition of forced labor or slavery.

First through taxation, then through inflation government confiscates your work product –your property, which impacts your ability to preserve yourself and your family.  Excessive government taxation plunders property.  Monetary policy destroys property through currency debasement causing inflation and a loss of wealth and purchasing power.  Our money is plundered by wasteful and profligate government spending.

Those that work to preserve their lives, to produce, have the only rightful claim to their property.  Favored political organizations, private industries, individual businesses, and blocks of voters are the recipients of this plunder.  The government through the threat of fines, prison, or worse confiscate property from its rightful owners and redistribute it to those that have absolutely no rightful claim to it.  There are hundreds upon hundreds of explanations government uses in an attempt to justify their actions.

In the end, it is simply legal plunder and the government is the modern day plantation owner.

The abhorrent institution of chattel slavery was abolished 150 years ago.  Today, we are debt slaves to the masters running the government plantation.   If slavery is illegal and one person cannot force another person to work for them against their will, under what legal or moral authority does government possess the power to enslave generations of Americans?  Indeed, life in 21st century America is Life on the Government Plantation.

In one sentence Bastait captured the essence of our peril.  He said, “[t]he law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder.”

Just as a slave does not consent to unlimited submission to another, free people do not consent to unlimited submission to government.  Too often government shackles are placed upon the wrists and ankles of those turning to government for largesse, the property of others, or simply an easier way to preserve their lives then to produce.  How far have we regressed as a society if free men willingly surrender their freedom and liberty by submitting to government masters demanding compliance, obedience, and a vote.  There are none so blind as those that will not see.

One of my favorite quotes from Sam Adams rings true today as it did in the late 1700s.  “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace.  We ask not your counsels or your arms.  Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.  May your chains set lightly upon you, and my posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

The uncomfortable truth is government has transformed itself into the modern day slave holder.  Government caused problems along with government based solutions are responsible for our condition.  Aided and abetted by a complacent and apathetic populace ignorant of history and our founding principles Americans are delivering society into perpetual bondage at the hands of their government masters.

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