Maybe you wonder if your ideas about government, in particularly “Keeping the Republic,” will stand the scrutiny of what is right or wrong … is your political philosophy defensible? The answer to this question involves analysis of what is ethical and what is moral. Now, I am no sage, but I have thought about this a lot, so I will give you my view of it.
First, what is ethics? What is morality? … if you look these words up, you can get a myriad of definitions, but it boils down to this: Ethics are the rules guiding the concept of what is right … in the Christian religion most poignantly described by the Ten Commandments and Golden Rule … in your personal life It is treating your fellow travelers, human and otherwise, as we hurtle along on Space Ship Earth, with kindness, deference, straightforwardness, truthfulness, consideration and empathy. Ethical conduct will make you feel good about yourself. Something, a little voice, deep inside of you will tell you if what you are doing, or have done, is ethical or unethical. This hidden voice can probably be described as “Conscience.” Morality is doing what is right by your ethical code, immorality is doing wrong.
Now, with that in mind … in government, what are the ethics and morality? These questions should be analyzed first from your personal perspective and then from the perspective of society at large.
Our Founders, who were philosophers, believed that securing the position of the individual in society was the object of government; it was the duty of government to assure each individual his freedom. These learned men, children of the “Age of Reason,” deduced that Man, in order to be free, was endowed with “certain unalienable rights.” Jefferson said, in the Declaration of Independence, that some of these rights were “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (… actually, in his original draft he had said “Property”). He also used the phrase, “that among these are …“ He did not deign to enumerate the “Rights” exhaustively, because he didn’t know them all … neither do you or I even at this late date. The most important part of this sentence in the Declaration is the way that it was prefaced, the phrase … “Endowed by their Creator.” Take a moment to consider that this assertion was endorsed by all 56 signers of the document.
The man that these Men were rebelling against, the tyrant, King George III, believed that any rights that these Men had were enjoyed or granted at his pleasure … and his view was correct so long as they served him, for by law they were his property, his serfs. The Founders believed with all their hearts that the King was a man like themselves and had no more ability to grant Rights than they. No man can grant another that which he does not possess. It follows that if Man has Rights, and he cannot grant Rights, and yet Rights do exist, then they must come from a higher Authority. Since these men believed in religious freedom, they abstained from saying that the Rights came from God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah or the God of any other denomination; they instead used the word “Creator” to denote your God, your neighbor’s God or mine, so that no one was offended. The concept of the Rights of Man coming from Divine authority is fundamental to our Republic. You should reflect that there are Rights, divinely given, that exist and have always existed inherit to all of us and that no man, committee or group has any authority to give them or deny them to any man. The only way that a Man can lose his Rights is for he himself to give up his right to them by his own actions and even then they still exist. The Declaration of Independence made it clear that the colonial rebellion was about the place of Man, the individual, in his relationship to government. The revolution was made to free the individual from not only the tyranny of a man, the King, but from the tyranny of the law of an unjust government. American patriots fought for and with great sacrifice won that freedom. The Founders who wrote the Constitution had been participants in that struggle and we at this late date can be assured that they in no way would have consciously written a document that in any way would have encroached upon the “Rights of Man”, they meant to protect the right of the individual to be as perfectly free as possible.
So if man is to be free of government, why do we have government at all? Let’s look at the problem from the Christian perspective where I, at least, have some understanding. The first tenant of being free is the question is how far does my freedom go? It is well established that freedom of speech does not extend to shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. (That is, unless there is truly a fire) My mentor believed that my freedom ended at the tip of your nose. Both of the above examples make the point, namely, you or I are free to do anything that does not harm others. Jesus Christ articulated this idea the most eloquently when he entreated, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” With this idea in mind let’s extend our thinking to God’s code of ethics given to Man on the tablets brought down from Mount Ararat in the hands of Moses, those divine laws written in stone; the Ten Commandments. What were those god given laws? Besides the purely religious commandments, and a commandment to honor thy father and mother, there were these: Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not covet; thou shalt not commit adultery; and thou shalt not bear false witness. The former commandments along with the injunctions not to commit adultery or to covet were much the business of the churches, but the latter were of a more secular nature. God’s injunction was not what to do, but what not to do. It is interesting that the God of the Bible saw us as individuals; told us what not to do and how to conduct ourselves; and then gave us free will to do anything … but promised to judge us for eternity. If you think about the commandments for a while, you will see that the sin will always be committed before the crime. Crime begins in the heart.
Doing a little more musing on the commandments, we see that it is not for us personally to punish crime … certainly God will do that in His Judgment. But reflecting further, we can see that an orderly society would be impossible without some collective form of retribution for the breach of God’s Law. The strong, the devious and the violent would overpower the meek, the helpless and the weak. This is why free men formed government … that is to police, adjudicate and punish breaches of God’s Laws in order to have a functioning society. Free Men consented to contribute some of their property; money; to be taxed; in order to be free in their personal space. This course is ethical, for it is following God’s Laws, retribution should not be done by individual action (it would be immoral), but by appealing to the larger community for enforcement which is impersonal and circumspect. The action of the community law is moral, because it is doing God’s Will. It is funded with personal property freely given by the individuals for their personal safety.
Taxation by the community for the collective safety of all is a moral undertaking. However it is moral only to the extent that it protects the individual to the extent of God’s Law. At the level of the local community law should not be not a matter of a majority vote or of the project of a committee or the vision of an enlightened leader, it should be for the protection of person and property only. Neither the majority, the committee nor the enlightened leader has any right to use force to make you or I do something which you or I do not wish to do. The use of force to make people do things that they do not want to do is more evil than the reason that government was instituted in the first place. On an individual basis, a person has a reasonable chance to resist the immoral advances of someone intent on harming his person or property by breaking God’s Law. When the community at large does the same thing to him, he is absolutely helpless. A robber may be a hulking person and might have a weapon, but it is possible that he could be defeated or run off by the individual. There is no way to defend oneself against the force that the government can bring when it takes that which is not wanted to be willing given. In either case, if your personal freedoms are compromised or your property is unwillingly taken, the scenario is precisely the same: it is thievery; you have been robbed. It is unethical, it is immoral!
When your local government begins to go beyond the ethics of God’s Law or the Federal government goes beyond its ethical mandate, namely the plain meaning of the Constitution, it is thievery; you have been robbed. They act unethically, it is immoral!
We who have been studying the Constitution know that is was meant as a guide to collectively promote harmony for and protection of an enclave of Free States populated by free men. We know that since the 16th, 17th and 18th Amendments of the Constitution were enacted by an unsuspecting populace a century ago, our national ethics have been shattered. There is no longer any morality in government and the populace has very little confidence in the process. The Congress is becoming despised.
Even the least of us understands that the 18th Amendment was a stupid idea. Our forefathers fixed that 75 years ago.
The 17th Amendment did away with the great bragging point of the Constitution, its “checks and balances.” But the intellectual argument here is much more subtle and has not yet been realistically investigated.
The 16th Amendment, the most evil of the three, is the certainly the cause of our present national malaise. Our national government operated perfectly well from 1789 until 1913 without an income tax. As a matter of fact, our forefathers fearing a profligate national government specifically prohibited an income tax. They believed that it was immoral to take the property of the individual to run the Federal government. And a limited national government controlling the commerce of the nation did not need to tax the people. They were right; who has an interest in building “a bridge to nowhere” or “a big dig in Boston” or financing the health insurance of someone in Alaska, Maine, Hawaii or Wejomboo. To force any of us to do so at the gunpoint of the federal police or by the specter of federal prison is: thievery; we have been robbed. It is unethical, it is immoral!