The Moral Politician

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A reader laments that “moral politicians” haven’t got much chance of getting elected in this country.

A “moral politician”? Isn’t that like a peaceful mugging?

I agree with H.L. Mencken, who wrote that an election is (paraphrasing) a kind of advance auction of stolen goods. Or, as Lenin put it: A vote over who does what to whom.

This is the inherent moral problem with voting as such.

This idea that one can (morally) deprive someone else of their liberty or their property by voting to do so. That actions which, if done by an individual, would be regarded by most normal people as criminal in the moral as well as the legal sense, somehow lose their moral repugnance and become morally legitimate when they are done via the ballot box.

It is a kind of derangement, if one has any morals. Or at least, morals that aren’t subjective and situational.

If it is wrong to steal, then (logically) it is also wrong to have someone steal on your behalf. Worse, arguably – because it’s evasive theft. The type of theft people convince themselves isn’t theft because the goods – so to speak – just sort of appeared in their possession.

But theft does not become something other than theft because you didn’t actually do the physical work of stealing but rather employed another person to do it on your behalf.

It becomes cowardly theft.

People who are squeamish about killing animals for food but enjoy a good steak. I paid into Social Security! (Actually, no. The government stole from you and now proposes to steal from others to redistribute the stolen goods to you.)

Etc.

There are those who believe in “limited government” – but this idea is . . . paradoxical. It is “limited” – how?

By what?

By a “constitution,” it is claimed. Which, it is said, defines and thus limits the powers of the government; describes what it may – and may not – do.

The United States has a Constitution and its government has (effectively, functionally) unlimited power, de facto as well as de jure. Is there anything at all the government has not asserted the power to control, regulate or tax? What area of our lives is entirely free of any control by the government, whether in fact or in principle?

I cannot think of one – and yet there is this notion that we have a “limited” government, bound by a “constitution.”

If so (as Spooner wrote) it is either a fraud or it is impotent to do what it advertised it would.

Arguably, because it never could.

The Constitution of the United States is full of caveats about the “limitations” of government, which serves the purpose of unlimiting it.

If, for example, there are some forms of theft which are “ok,” then it is hard to understand how any form of theft can – in principle – not be “ok.” It is only a question of justifying the theft – usually, by voting to commit it.

The only defense against such theft is for theft to be agreed a moral wrong as such – and not open to being voted on, or regarded as not-theft when called by some other name (e.g., “taxation” or “contributions”).

That is the only way to “limit” government. By prohibiting it from doing X, Y and Z, without qualification, because qualification inevitably leads to parsing – to the government interpreting the extent of its own limits, which always leads to the end of limitations on what it permits itself to do.

Consider every right supposedly defined as “off limits” to encroachment by the Bill of Rights. Is there one that has kept the government on its leash? In fact, the government has simply interpreted each of these supposed limits on its authority in such a way as to eliminate those limits.

If, for example, the Fourth Amendment had any potency as a limit on the government, Americans would not be compelled to submit to any search (however cursory) absent a judicial warrant and probable cause – which the amendment clearly states are necessary prerequisites to a search. But there is also the qualification that searches be “reasonable.”

Who defines this? The government itself.

And so we are subject to searches at random, absent judicial warrant and even the pretense of suspicion that a crime has been committed. In fact, the now-ubiquitous  warrantless/probable cause-free searches presume guilt – and place the burden upon the presumptively guilty party to establish his innocence.

So much for that “limitation.”

And the rest.

Any government which  is the arbiter of its powers is the farthest thing imaginable from “limited” government. And it is the very essence of naivete to pine for an “honest” politician when the every essence of politics – in the context of a government whose powers are unlimited – is to increase the power of politicians, who achieve that end by becoming the arbiters and redistributors of the lives and property of other people.

People who have no legal defense against immoral transgressions against their liberty and theft of their property – so long as duly voted on, according to the law.

. . .

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18 COMMENTS

  1. The stated reason by the founding fathers of this corrupt government for setting up a representative system of government was that the people lack the time and perhaps the knowledge to vote on every peice of legislation; therefore it is highly unjust to cast the blame sideways at your fellow citizens instead of where it rightfully belongs. If we need to babysit the policians in order for them to do their job, then we don’t need them at all!

  2. ” I paid into Social Security! (Actually, no. The government stole from you and now proposes to steal from others to redistribute the stolen goods to you.)”

    Actually the gov stole from ‘me’ to redistribute the stolen goods to others of the time. It was intended to be a retirement assistance only,,, not all that it is today,,, which is one reason why it is going broke. Also Clinton swapping (stole) 2 trillion cash in the fund for useless government non paying bonds didn’t help.

    True,,, a scam,,, a Ponzi scheme like all insurance scams,,, but what’s hard to figure is why many figure the victims (those that paid involuntarily) 12-15% of their income over 50 years should be the ones to bear the brunt of this at a time in their lives when they’re most vulnerable.

    Many say it’s not a insurance but look up the acronym FICA. “Federal Insurance Contribution Act”

    I never once felt my money was wasted when watching a elderly grandma buying food at the store. At least not in the way I feel towards those that get the Section 8 housing, welfare, food stamps, WIC, Day Care Assistance, and over $6000 for child tax credits without paying a dime for any of it.

    The missing 21 trillion from HUD and the Pentagon that no one seems overly concerned about would go a long way to pay for some of these expenses. IMO.

    That said,,, the never ending wars,,, the ballooning Military Industrial spending,,, the militarization of the police,,, the spying,,, civil forfeiture (outright theft),,, the control of our property via confiscatory property taxes and the EPA, and the ‘elimination’ of our basic constitutional rights should be of great concern,,, but aren’t.

    It seems most are concerned over identity politics and hurt feelings which I believe to be a decoy to cover the problems you bring forth in this excellent article.

    JMO….

    • SS is a scam. The government leads the people to believe it is one thing but then in court government argues it is another and the courts rule in government’s favor. SS was declared a welfare program that exists at the whim of congress. That’s what it is. The money paid is just another income tax.

      Now I don’t fault people for wanting to claw back the taxes they paid. I see the merit in stealing from people today because of being stolen from yesterday as well. So what happens when people are scammed. Efforts are made to recover the money. As in Bernie Maddoff. A much larger than expected proportion of the money has been recovered. I believe this is the solution to SS. Government assets would need to be sold. Want an F-16? Those who benefited from government greatly would need to pay it back to the victims. Defense contractors, big banks, political office holders, etc. Unwind it as any scam would be.

      For welfare in general I get the few true bad luck cases. I get it. But for the most part welfare state spending is about the -choices- people made in their lives. And because of that it fosters resentment. Because if a person can go on welfare he can take a lot more risk, have a lot more fun. If he can’t he must be more prudent. In another 20-30 years that little old lady on food stamps will be a woman who spent her 20-30s well doing what single women do these days. In 40s couldn’t find a man to take on her debt and then she’s old with nothing. Of course men like me will still be expected to work to provide the tax money for them to live. And that’s if she didn’t go the single mother route, that means even more money for choices. Not being dealt a bad hand, but making choices. The welfare state changes the risk calculation. Only a tiny fraction of today’s welfare would be required if it was only about those things truly out of a person’s control while putting aside that welfare is used to patch over the effects of other government doings. That’s another big hunk that could go away.

      That said I’ve offered leftists the welfare state they want but they would have to give up the warfare state. Takers are lukewarm and few and far between.

    • Hi Ken,

      I’m now in my 50s.. been “contributing” for the past 30. If I could have all that back, I could do this – write – purely for the satisfaction it gives me. Not because I need to earn a living. Even so, I would gladly sign a deal that allowed (sickening term) me to stop “contributing” from this day forward in return for renouncing any claim to future benefits.

      I also feel badly for elderly people who are in need – but their need ought not to entitle them to shove a gun in my back to force me (or anyone else) to “help” them. That transforms empathy and warm human feeling into incandescent hatred.

      At least, it does for me.

  3. I don’t think anyone is making the case that a politician has ever been a moral being. Maybe Jefferson, perhaps Ron Paul, but considering the number of politicians out there, only being able to name two is pretty dismal.

    My concern is much more practical. People acknowledge the system is fundamentally broken, and believe the fix is to get rid of “the opposition.” This sounds like a very bad idea. I think a lot of the “foreign interference” in the political process is actually coming from mainland China, where they think the monstrous credit bubble that is causing their economy to boom is somehow a result of one-party rule. Now that we’re headed into a recession (after the weakest boom cycle in my lifetime), it will be interesting to watch China’s economy implode.

  4. Eric,

    The problem isn’t the Constitution; it’s the failure to understand and obey it. In Article I, section 8, it lists those things on which Congress can spend money; depending on how you count them, it’s 18-21 items for which Congress can spend money. For example, Congress can raise a navy and army (i.e. national defense). Anything NOT on the list is not allowed. That seems simple enough.

    The problem is that we long ago ceased to follow these limitations. Congress overstepped its bounds and we, as a citizenry, failed to hold them to account; we’ve failed to vote out Congress critters who overstep the bounds of the Constitution. Most folks haven’t even read, let alone know and understand, our Constitution. Let me give you an example of the appalling civic ignorance out there…

    Years ago, I was out sick from work. I got a call from my then Congressman to participate in a conference call. I never got on to share my thoughts, but I listened to others that did. One guy started talking about local taxes, stuff like that. I was like WTF?! The Congressman pointed out to the man that he’d have to see his LOCAL gov’t about these concerns-duh! If the average Joe is that ignorant about gov’t, how likely is it that he knows and understands the Constitution?

    Because the feds have overstepped their bounds, there’s a Convention of States movement out there. They say that they want to amend the Constitution to reign in the federal gov’t; they want to add amendments to the terms of SCOTUS justices, balanced budget amendment, etc. Exhibit A would be Mark Levin’s Liberty Amendments. This foolish, not to mention dangerous. It’s foolish because, if the gov’t is flouting our Constitution now, what’s to make it obey the amended one? The whole COS fails on that right there.

    However, the real danger is that we could get a totally new Constitution, since we’ll have a convention going on if this comes to pass. Once a convention is going, then ANYTHING can happen-even getting a new Constitution! There are replacement constitutions waiting in the wings, such as The Constitution of the New States of America.

    This has happened before. How do you think we got our PRESENT Constitution? It was at the convention convened originally to tweak the Articles of Confederation. Once convened though, the attendees decided to scrap the Articles of Confederation and, in secret, instituted our present Constitution.

    In closing, the Constitution isn’t the problem. The problems are: 1) failure to observe its limits; 2) ignorance of what it says; and 3) failure on our part to hold our elected officials ACCOUNTABLE.

    • Hi Mark,

      “The problem isn’t the Constitution; it’s the failure to understand and obey it.”

      Legally limited government is a contradiction in terms for the simple reason that government exercises a legal monopoly on judging its’ own actions relative to the law. Still, you are right that the Constitution isn’t the problem; it’s the belief that a constitution can limit the power of government.

      From an earlier post: ‘“In a republic, a constitution or charter of rights protects certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government.” Ha, Ha! The Federal government claims sole authority to judge its’ own actions relative to the law. In addition, it claims to be the final arbiter of the legality of State actions. As such, this institution exists outside of and above the law. It recognizes no legal restraints on its’ power, nor any “inalienable” rights of the people. It is constrained only by custom, available resources and some fear of pushing the people to rebellion.’

      As to holding those in power accountable, every countervailing power has been legally neutered, derided and ignored. The supposed dual sovereignty of the States was rendered legally meaningless by the 17th amendment and effectively meaningless by the political and judicial contempt for the 10th amendment and the remedies of nullification and interposition that follow from it.

      Just as state nullification and interposition were supposed to be a check on the power of the Federal government, jury nullification was intended to be a check on the power of local and state governments. But, this most important power of the people has been stolen from us by an arrogant and unaccountable judiciary with the aid of contemptible court intellectuals. Judges across the land routinely, and falsely, instruct jurors that they may not judge the law. In addition, many people have been arrested for informing people, outside of courthouses, their actual rights as jurors.

      As for democratic accountability (an absurd idea), what little political power the people ever had has been rendered meaningless by the cap on representatives at 435, as this necessarily decreases the power of the people and increases the power of Congress as population grows. The effective power of any individual congressman has increased about 30 fold due to this seemingly innocuous change.

      It is the myth of government legitimacy that must be challenged. As long as most people believe that the ability to vote provides meaningful “consent”, and that constitutions can guarantee limited government, the rule of law and the protection of inalienable rights, then government will continue to grow. Until enough people view government as, at best, a “necessary evil” or, at worst,” a criminal gang writ large”, we will see no reduction in its’ power.

      Jeremy

      • Jeremy,

        That’s why Madison, the father of the Constitution, said that the Constitution is suitable only for a MORAL & RELIGIOUS people; he said it was totally unsuitable to the governance of any other. I dare say THAT is where we’ve gone wrong…

        MarkyMark

    • You know, Patrick Henry asked in regard to the Constitution: And if these limitations are ignored, what are you going to do about it, march out your army?

      He was correct. It is absolutely not that “we” ceased to follow the limitations as you assert. That’s just collective gibberish.

      The problem is also not ignorance of what is says, unless it’s the ignorance about the real meaning of language that sounds like a limitation or that suggests legitimacy. Those things were put there to trick you…and for no other reason. They mean nothing just like Patrick Henry said. It’s not like they were intended to be followed…or were ever followed. Nigh the first thing Washington did was to rush out with an army to try to punish whiskey producers who resented the implementation of institutionalized theft. That is what the Constitution was designed for. That is its purpose—human farming, as another poster here on this forum puts is so eloquently. The rest is subterfuge pure and simple.

      Eric is 100% correct on this one. If you start from a foundation that theft is immoral, then the Constitution has no purpose. If you take away the component of theft, there is nothing left. It doesn’t matter what benefits you imagine you might get out of the deal—like defense. You have nothing to defend because you are owned, by foundational assumption.

      It certainly may be that the Constitution is not the only problem, but to assert that it is not a problem at all just makes no sense whatsoever.

    • The problem with local politicians is this. They are often more “directed” by DC then their own voters. And its not entirely their fault, at least the ones that are in office now, none of them set up the current very dysfunctional system.

      I know someone who often covers board meetings in a rural Indiana county in between NW Indiana and Lafayette for his own blog since the local paper don’t bother for the most part. They are very hamstrung in what they can do (or not do) in almost every area by mandates and regulation from the feds. Most of the time they aren’t deciding anything, that’s been made by someone in an office in DC, not even someone in the statehouse in Indianapolis.

      And since DC mandates and regs are very urban area oriented, they often don’t work very well (or at all) in a rural place. But that doesn’t matter to our rulers. It certainly is a reason for the urban-rural divide.

      There really isn’t much “local” control of anything, anymore IMHO.

      • And who represents the rural minority? My “representative” in Congress covers three quarters of the Colorado land mass. I have about as much a chance of running into him as meeting Jesus in a Starbucks.

        But the Federal government was fairly well limited until the Roosevelt administration. Then the states were hemmed in during the 1950s and things like the highway act, where the feds started “recommending” legislation in exchange for free money to the states. Now they’re so dependent on Uncle for their budget that they’re effectively just another arm of the federal government. And of course the rise of the professional politician means the parties control who gets to advance to Park Place and Boardwalk, so of course they’re going to do what the party tells them to do.

        • I know what you mean RK. I’ve only been to a Starbucks once. It was a semi strange experience. If Jeebus was near he was attending the sick since this was in a hospital, although it seemed the perfect place to sell drugs(as I sip my dark roast for my morning “fix”).?

          I suppose I was swayed too much from decades of MSM lies but I hadn’t really given Strom Thurmond enough attention. He got my attention twice though which gave lie to what had always been said of him. I won’t try to list the lies.

          The first time was upon passage of the Patriot Act when he raged against Congress saying they’d just done away with the Constitution.

          The second time was when he addressed Congress upon the passage of the NDAA legislation. He was apoplectic and although I can’t quote his exact words I can paraphrase “You sorry motherfuckers” I think is close enough.

          I won’t say he was as fiscally conservative as Dr. No but he was probably close and made no doubt about where he stood and what he thought of the rest of the body politic.

          No worry now, nobody in that institution has a quarter of the morals in their entire body as Strom and Ron Paul had in their cuticles.

          Since the evil shrub and Cheney hit town the country bears little resemblance to even the 90s and the evil Democratic power grab and anti gun laws passed nor the evil Republican Contract with the devil.

          And no, it’s not the coffee talking, I totally forgot about it.

          • The mistake is spending any time and especially MONEY in “StarFux” in the first place. Just duck into an AM/PM and pay a BUCK for a cup of Joe…I’ll bet you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in a blinded taste test!

        • RK, Colorado has always had it “fixed” so that the western slope never has its own representation. The districts are pie-sliced (gerrymandered) so that the little part that is on the east slope always outvotes the entire western slope.

          CO needs to be two states, though with the leftist enclaves of Aspen, Gunnison, and Telluride even that might not do any good.

    • IMO the USC was deliberately weasel worded such that the present condition could be achieved. It was a political time bomb.

      Sure if people chose not to weasel through the words and some bad early 20th century amendments didn’t happen it would be just fine. But that’s not how people are.

      The founders, those of both the liberty and ‘be like England’ views were not dumb men. It is simply that over the long haul the former lost and the later won. They won by getting the USC and having it weasel worded such that future interpretations would achieve what they desired. The time table ended up being much longer than they likely intended but worked none the less.

  5. i think there could be a case made for a moral politician. He would simply have to work toward unequivocally reducing the size of government while never voting for anything that grew it in any way.

    If he announced his intentions to do that, he’d probably be unelectable, but if any such animal ever got into office I could make a good argument he was “moral”. That’s about it though, I can’t think of any other circumstance under which there would be a “moral” politician.

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