Equal Tyranny for All?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Occasionally, I will hear about a well-intentioned effort to fix to the numerous problems brought about by the fact that our government is attempting to run our lives, rather than fulfilling its proper purpose, which is to protect our individual rights so that we are free to exercise our own best judgment in the pursuit of our own selfish interests.

Usually, these fixes are of a legal nature, such as enacting term limits for elected officials, relying on "states' rights" to head off federal tyranny, and even repealing the seventeenth amendment (to prevent the proliferation of unfunded mandates). Notice that these proposals, in turn, ignore such questions as: why corrupt officials get elected in the first place, whether an individual state might become a tyranny, and what unpleasant fact unfunded mandates (and other sleights-of-hand, like printing money) are hiding.

The latest such scheme is to enact the following as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or [sic] Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or [sic] Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.
I find it both ironic and highly instructive that 28 is twice 14, the number of the Amendment containing the Equal Protection Clause, which was added after Emancipation to ensure that that the rights of former slaves were not abridged by levels of government below the federal.
"[N]o state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
In one sense, then, this proposed amendment is redundant. Our government is already supposed to protect the rights of all citizens equally. The Clause above reaffirms this principle by explicitly making it apply throughout our government.

Unfortunately, this isn't the whole problem. To fully appreciate that, let's look at the rationale for adding something to the Constitution that is, at best, redundant.
For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Many citizens had no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest is to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform that was passed. Somehow, that doesn't seem logical. We do not have an elite that is above the law. I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. The self-serving must stop. This is a good way to do that. It is an idea whose time has come.
The problem with ObamaCare is that violates the individual rights of patients and physicians alike, not that Congress knows better than to subject itself to the snake oil it hopes to force down everyone else's throats. It should be repealed (and not replaced!) at once, and the rest of the welfare state should be dismantled afterwards.

Sadly, this effort not only fails to condemn ObamaCare, it would condone it at the constitutional level by excusing tyranny so long as it applied to all men equally. (It also naively assumes that Congress wouldn't find some de facto way to exempt itself anyway.)

I don't give a hoot in hell that a bunch of jackasses have exempted themselves from ObamaCare or will exempt themselves from something else monstrous in the future. I want to be free from all of this. Making Congress think harder about how to avoid the yoke it's making for the hoi polloi isn't going to work, as the existence of the 14th Amendment and other parts of the law that are already being ignored attest. The real solution is to find a way not to have a gang of thieves making our laws in the first place. Read on.

As I noted above, efforts like this often ignore glaring facts, and this one is no different. On what basis have advocates of ObamaCare justified themselves? Basically, that we all supposedly have a "right" to medical care -- a good that someone must work to provide. Taking something forcibly from someone else is not a right, however, but a violation of that other person's rights. It is stealing, and that is what this proposal is turning a blind eye towards.

This analogy isn't perfect, but If I lived in a slum and saw that only the people living nearby behind glass-topped walls were free from burglaries, I wouldn't demand that the walls be torn down. I'd try to stop the thieves.

So even if we explicitly forbade ObamaCare from the Constitution, the underlying disease of the body politic would remain: That too many people accept (or leave unchallenged) the premise that it's okay to steal from other people so long as the government does it, and passes out the loot equally.

So long as this idea retains its undeserved respect in our culture, we will elect bandits to office, our state and federal governments will compete in a race to be the main gang in our neighborhoods, our wealth will be sapped in one way or another (since loot has to come from somewhere), and everyone will be looking for a way to make sure everyone else is equally screwed.

Making a new law will not act like a magical incantation to restore our liberty. Only a populace that understands and respects the nature of individual rights (starting with their moral basis) and the need for a proper government to protect them can elect leaders who will understand and uphold the principles already written into our Constitution.

The email I received reads in part:
This will take less than thirty seconds to read. If you agree, please pass it on.

...

Have each person contact a minimum of twenty people on their Address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one proposal that really should be passed around.
I wish things were this simple, but this isn't the real solution. The real way out of our predicament comes from understanding the nature and value of individual rights for ourselves and helping others begin doing the same. This is a long road that each of us must travel and it will take years, if not decades, to bear fruit.

But it can be done.

-- CAV

18 comments:

Doug Reich said...

Great post.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you, sir!

Mike said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "Making Congress think harder about how to avoid the yoke it's making for the hoi polloi..." Urgh, hoi polloi is a troublesome phrase; it already means "the many" in Greek, so "the hoi polloi" is technically redundant, rather like Lake Malawi and Sahara Desert, and in a weak sense Gobi Desert. (Gobi actually means "semi-desert," not "desert," which would be tsöl--if I have it aright, gobi is dry land that's still able to support shrubs and marmots.) And just sad is ordering roast beef "with au jus sauce."

So there's reason just to say "hoi polloi," but what trumps that for me is that eschewing "the" was the usage urged on pain of being hoi polloi, in Dead Poet's Society. Since the last thing I want is to be mistaken for one of the intellectually soft-shelled soft-skulled critters who lap up that pretentious, precious piece of what bears leave in the woods, I prefer to avoid the phrase entirely and go with "the great unwashed," which (for me at least) captures the same sentiment with the same range of ironic uses. (And I'll just leave off by pointing out the irony of pretentious lefties for whom that film is a gateway to better-washed-than-thouness thoughtlessly incorporating as a codeword for boorishness a phrase that in ancient Athens was the proud label for the democratic political ideal. Unthinking or simply conventional use of the term doesn't bother me, but when combined with certain political opinions frequently and overtly expressed, it is rather jarring.)

Gus Van Horn said...

Mike,

Sorry to jar you! I must admit that I grind my teeth a little when I use the phrase myself, knowing as I do that "hoi" means "the" in that phrase.

My personal favorite in the category of phrases like this is "by Jove," of which "Jove" is the ablative case in Latin for "Jupiter," and can be translated to mean "by Jupiter," meaning that the phrase would really mean, but for centuries of usage, "by by Jupiter."

The ones that I really can't stand are the French ones. I won't say "with au jus" or "please RSVP" since RSVP already includes the abbreviation of the French equivalent of "please" as its last three letters.

Gus

Mike said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "Sorry to jar you!" Yeah, well, I'll leave it to you to imagine how far my tongue was in my cheek on that count.

"My personal favorite in the category of phrases like this is 'by Jove,' of which 'Jove' is the ablative case in Latin for 'Jupiter,' and can be translated to mean 'by Jupiter,' meaning that the phrase would really mean, but for centuries of usage, 'by by Jupiter.'"

Prima facie at least. It's possible that it has a different source, however, but I'd have to do some digging to be sure: It could well be that "by Jove" is in turn just a loan translation of a medieval French equivalent of pro Jovem; in general French generalized the accusative singular (and this was in turn the form regularly borrowed into English), but since the final m of that case was lost in all of Late Latin (a development already attested in Pompeii graffiti), Jove is the expected French form. (But given the universal hold of Christianity on medieval French culture, it would still be a fairly learned word. This is what makes it necessary to dig around in the dusty tomes.) There are lots of English phrases, by the way, that are loan translations of that type--"it goes without saying," for example, from French ça va sans dire.

"The ones that I really can't stand are the French ones."

Agreed. I might add that I get a chuckle out of the odd shifts some French phrases underwent in English--for example, "marriage of convenience" is essentially a mistranslation (though an evocative one) of French mariage de convenance, "marriage of agreement," or literally "marriage of covenant," and thus having essentially the opposite connotations of "covenant marriage!" (And lingerie just means "linen goods.")

Mike said...

Grilled carne asada steak.

ATM Machine.

It just never ends... :)

Andrew Dalton said...

Gus -

Those kinds of redundancies can make their way into the standard grammar of a language.

In Spanish, the word for "where" is donde, which is a contraction of the Latin words de ("from") + unde ("from where"). So the Spanish phrase de donde ("from where") is, etymologically, equivalent to "from from from where."

http://rudhar.com/etymolog/dedonde.htm

Gus Van Horn said...

Mike #1,

Ah! leave it to me to regale a linguist with my knowledge of classical languages, only to find out that it might not really BE knowledge!

Mike #2,

Indeed it does, and we think alike. I very nearly brought up RAS Syndrome in my first reply to the first Mike.

Andrew,

We (may still) have a linguist in our midst. Perhaps he can find something even more redundant.

That said, my head is close to exploding already.

Gus

Mike1 said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "We (may still) have a linguist in our midst. Perhaps he can find something even more redundant." Heh! Totally hijacked this posting...

There are many examples I can think of of what you might call "etymological redundancies." Those would be words which lose their meanings or whose pronunciations change enough that native speakers add what are historically redundant--besides de donde a nice pair of examples in Spanish (and Portuguese) is conmigo and contigo, in which Latin mecum/tecum had reduced to migo/tigo, so to emphasize the sense of accompaniment, con was prefixed to a word originally already containing it (this was helped by the fact that postposed cum was rare in Latin and nonexistent in Romance).

In French there's aujourd'hui "today," which is from au "to the" (masculine singular, ad illum historically) jour "day" (from diurnum) de "of" hui "today" (from hodie), so literally "on the day of today."

An amusing example in non-standard English is "childrenses," a triple-decker you can hear, for example, in Lightnin' Hopkins' "How Long Have You Been Gone?" and in other blues songs, which is historically a quadruple-decker: In Old English, the original plural was childer (same historically as German Kind/Kinder), or more precisely spelled cilder, which was such an unusual plural formation eventually that the more common plural ending -en was added to it (it didn't hurt there was already the model of "brother/brethren"), so that "children" is already a double-decker.

That's different from misinterpreted borrowings, as well as reanalyses. That last is the technical term for changes the form of a word when another word falls out of use--a good example there would be "bridegroom," which was originally bridguma "bride's man," where guma was the original Old English word for "human," cognate in fact with Latin homo and humanus, but was later replaced by mann or monn (depending on the English dialect); it was replaced by "groom" in "bridegroom" after guma was lost because that made it make more sense.

Gus Van Horn said...

"An amusing example in non-standard English is 'childrenses,' a triple-decker you can hear, for example, in Lightnin' Hopkins' 'How Long Have You Been Gone?' and in other blues songs, which is historically a quadruple-decker: In Old English, the original plural was childer (same historically as German Kind/Kinder), or more precisely spelled cilder, which was such an unusual plural formation eventually that the more common plural ending -en was added to it (it didn't hurt there was already the model of 'brother/brethren'), so that 'children' is already a double-decker."

You had to dig deep, but I knew you had it in you!

The hijacked thread was worth it!

Mo said...

just goes to show you how concrete bound the culture is. when you get guys talking about term limits and the likes of such measures

Gus Van Horn said...

The kicker is that many people would read this post and regard my suggested course of action as completely ... impractical.

Mo said...

yeah we must be pragmatic. kinda like our prime minister. Very pragmatic fellow compared to the previous who was a principled marxist. It really is an ugly philosophy and I now find myself going back to rand's eloquent notes about it

Gus Van Horn said...

It is more difficult, in many respects, to fight against pragmatism than against Marxism or religion. Some examples: in the latter case, it is at least clear to people in your "audience" what you're fighting against, whereas a pragmatist will often go so far as to pay lip-service to your ideas, if it suits his purposes, while posing as more practical than you, the "idealist" (whose reputation as such has already been injured by idealists who adhere to bad philosophies). And then, for anyone whose psycho-epistemology has been affected by it, there's the whole matter of their being less able to deal with principles as such. It is a very frustrating set of problems.

Steve D said...

I may have made this point before but as far as securing our liberty is concerned elections are almost completely irrelevant. So long as the culture remains as is today, they will be mostly counterproductive for reasons you have explained. At the best under some circumstances (e.g. Obama) they might buy some time by eliminating a particularly bad politician. However, once the culture changes for the better (due to increasing acceptance of Objectivist ideas, especially ethics) elections will still be mostly irrelevant as all of the political parties will improve (think of them as a choice between freedom and more freedom). In fact I can imagine almost the opposite trend from today. Instead of the battle being between altruism and capitalism with altruism winning we will have a welfare state/socialist politics struggling against ever increasing ethics of selfishness becoming dominant in the culture. In either of these battles we can predict that eventually the prevailing politics will lose as it slowly comes to match the prevailing ethics.
Perhaps in the future the politicians will compete for how fast they can reduce spending, how many freedoms they can restore etc.
“This is a long road that each of us must travel and it will take years, if not decades, to bear fruit.”
Perhaps, but I also suspect there is some threshold (in terms of numbers of people who hold the philosophy or how strongly they do) beyond which this will occur very rapidly. Unfortunately, this also works in reverse and I think we very close and perhaps even past this threshold in the direction of fascism.

“just goes to show you how concrete bound the culture is. when you get guys talking about term limits and the likes of such measures”

Completely true. Also, how does having had a position now disqualify you for it? Not only are term limits concrete but even at that level they don’t make sense.

Gus Van Horn said...

Steve,

Good points all, especially the one about there being a threshold above which the speed of change could accelerate.

That threshold for the positive direction could be relatively low, if we consider the disproportionate power of minority groups within the electorate.

The key, of course, is not to sequester ourselves in a third party, and thus end up being ignored by the other two.

Gus

Jim May said...

Late to the party here, but my favorite of the "stacked redundancies" from other languages is "La Brea", which means "the tar" in Spanish.

I imagine the Spanish speakers around L.A. cringe when they hear the tourists say that they are going to visit "the 'The Tar' tar pits".

A double-double decker decker!

Gus Van Horn said...

Heh! And I'll cringe right along with them the next time I'm in L.A.