Today’s Americans readily accept the federal government’s unlimited authority. We choose our politicians, not to protect our liberties, but to provide for our needs and insulate us from bad judgments. In fact, we just can’t seem to get enough government. A little socialized medicine, anyone?
Curiously, our founders feared big government. Perhaps, they were just not as enlightened as we modern Americans. Or, could it be that they knew something that we haven’t yet learned?
For most of us, our earliest perceptions of government began to form in school, prior to the time our critical thinking skills had engaged. We learned about democracy. America, the people, was equated with America, the government. Beliefs about the source of America’s greatness---whether a creation of government or the product of free individuals---began being molded.
We received our first dose of simplistic history at this time. For example, we all learned that Lincoln freed the slaves, but few were taught about Lincoln imprisoning 13,000 Americans, without trials, for simply criticizing his heavy-handed policies. The triumphs of government were emphasized, while encroachments on individual liberty were minimized.
Upon initiation of the Department of Education, in 1980, control of the public school system began shifting from community control to federal control. As the judgments of parents were replaced by the dictates of bureaucrats, opportunities for unbridled indoctrination expanded.
New focus was placed on issues of “social responsibility,” like conservation and global warming, where the government could be cast as the shining knight, standing between the well being of the good children and the evil, polluting, corporate greed mongers seeking to suffocate them.
Rather than revering economic liberty along side of political liberty, children were led to see private industry as predators, who in the absence of a watchdog government, sought to force folks to work for slave wages and flood the market with dangerous products.
If children understood their heritage of liberty and the wisdom behind our Constitution, they would also know that corporations cannot take their liberty, only government can. But, such knowledge is increasingly rare.
Last year, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute quizzed a sampling of Americans regarding their knowledge of our founding principles. Less than half could name the three branches of government, and only 27% knew that the Bill of Rights prohibits establishment of a state religion. How can this be?
Our Bill of Rights takes no more than five minutes to read and is the legal protection to our basic liberties. Yet, despite twelve years of schooling, its contents remain a mystery for many. This illustrates just how large the disconnect between our federal government and the Constitution’s principles has become.
As adults, we see evidence of government’s massive power everywhere. We learn about payroll taxes and find out there are tax implications to almost every significant decision we make. We discover that government regulates everything from our light bulbs and toilet mechanisms to what doctors can prescribe and how much money we must receive before being allowed to work.
We notice government's ability to take the rightful property of one citizen and simply give it to another citizen. And, when that is not enough, we observe politicians simply creating money from thin air, backed by nothing.
Such an almighty federal presence was the worst nightmare of our Constitution’s framers. Having just freed themselves from big government tyrants, they sought to curb the natural inclinations of government to gain maximum power and control, then exercise it to the extent of their capabilities.
The Revolutionary War had been about winning liberty. Now, it was up to the Framers to protect that liberty. Thomas Jefferson, advocating adoption of the Bill of Rights, argued this could only occur if government was bound by “the chains of the Constitution.”
For much of our history, the Framers’ plan worked as designed. In fact, just ninety years ago, both politicians and citizens continued to acknowledge the strict limitations on government authority. They recognized that, without a Constitutional amendment, the federal government lacked the authority to even ban alcohol.
Now, turn the page to 2009. Does anyone think today's Congress would bother with a Constitutional amendment to ban a vilified substance? In fact, can you think of any instance in which Congress would feel the need for a Constitutional amendment in order to expand their authority for any reason at all? If your answer is no, you have just defined unlimited power.
Currently, we are on course to leave future generations an America in which their liberties are few and their economic burdens are great. While this is increasingly a likelihood, it is not a carved-in-granite inevitability.
The Constitutional principles of limited federal authority were adopted by the people and ratified by the states. They are the law of the land; the fundamental agreement between the American people and their government. Servants plotting to become masters can ignore our rightful heritage, but they cannot invalidate it without our permission. Let's stop giving it to them.