Posts tagged with: self-government

coolidgebAs we read about the increase of scandal, mismanagement, and corruption within our federal agencies, it is essential once again to revisit the words of Calvin Coolidge. Recent actions at the IRS, Veterans Administration, and the ATF gunwalking scandal all point to systemic problems that come from an entrenched bureaucracy. As more and more of the responsibilities of civil society is passed over to centralized powers in Washington, federal agencies have exploded with power and control, leading to greater opportunities for abuse. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, a favorite stump speech line of former presidential candidate George Wallace was, “When I get to Washington, I am going to throw the briefcases of the pointy headed intellectuals into the Potomac.” Wallace was of course speaking about the entrenched bureaucracy in the nation’s capital.

Bureaucracy of some form is necessary under government. But we live in an era where constitutional constraints are eschewed and the bureaucratic machine is becoming more politicized. “Bureaucracy is undoubtedly the weapon and sign of a despotic government, inasmuch as it gives whatever government it serves, despotic power,” declared Lord Acton. Bureaucracy, by its nature, is problematic to the notion of self-government.

Bureaucracy is a threat to liberty and it’s not accountable to the people, that is the main point Coolidge is reminding Americans in the excerpt from a speech he gave as president at the College of William & Mary in 1926:

No method of procedure has ever been devised by which liberty could be divorced from local self-government. No plan of centralization has ever been adopted which did not result in bureaucracy, tyranny, inflexibility, reaction, and decline. Of all forms of government, those administered by bureaus are about the least satisfactory to an enlightened and progressive people. Being irresponsible they become autocratic, and being autocratic they resist all development. Unless bureaucracy is constantly resisted it breaks down representative government and overwhelms democracy. It is the one element in our institutions that sets up the pretense of having authority over everybody and being responsible to nobody.

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Wednesday, September 18, 2013

houstonWhenever there is a mass shooting, inevitably there is a rush by public officials, celebrities, and media talking heads to demand further restrictions on gun ownership. Truthfully, both sides of the firearm debate are guilty of politicizing these tragedies, as people race to media outlets to declare that their side played no role or responsibility for the action of the assailant. Many gun owners and their supporters reflexively react to the accusations. Despite the media’s relentless focus on violent shootings, Second Amendment support is surging. Americans are purchasing more guns than ever before. Concealed permit holders and applicants across the country are on the rise too. Most states outside of the Northeast are relaxing their restrictions on firearms not tightening them. When it comes to self-government, no issue is succeeding in America like firearm ownership and the right to carry.

Why is the argument to restrict firearms so ineffective? With each tragedy many pundits and politicians try to link the millions of law abiding gun owners to the violence and tragedy. If citizens didn’t have access to firearms, there would be no tragedy, so the argument goes. But they are not linked at all. They are unrelated. The moral deficiency in the argument is glaring. Most Americans realize it’s too far of a leap to connect the millions and millions of lawful and safe firearm owners to people with severe mental illnesses and psychological problems. The attempt by so many to link these two groups of people together is ineffective, rings hollow, and comes off as offensive. They are not and never will be morally equivalent agents in our society.

It’s actually the morality of millions of law abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Constitutional gun rights that are undoing and crippling the arguments of those calling for restrictions and gun bans. That’s why morality is so effective and essential for self-government. And when it comes to morality and exercising rights, those who want to limit government intrusion and promote self-government can learn learn a lot from gun owners.

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Thursday, February 14, 2013

800px-Statue_in_Minute_Man_National_Historical_ParkSome politicians are calling for new regulation and restrictions on firearms, but why and how does the Second Amendment strengthen liberty? In a thoughtful post at the Carolina Journal today, Troy Kickler offers this historical assessment:

What did early jurists and constitutional commentators say regarding the Second Amendment? St. George Tucker in View of the Constitution of the United States (1803), the first systematic commentary on the Constitution after its ratification, describes the Second Amendment to be “the true palladium of liberty.”

As the preservation of the statue of Pallas in mythological Troy — the Palladium — needed to be protected for the ancient city’s preservation, so the Virginian believed that the amendment ensured liberty’s protection in the United States. If the nation had a “standing army” — Revolutionary era-Americans’ description for a full-time, professional army — while individual Americans were denied the “right to keep and bear arms,” then “liberty, if not already annihilated,” Tucker wrote, “is on the brink of destruction.”

To Tucker, the Second Amendment is the linchpin that ensures the existence of all the other liberties.

Tucker was not alone. Although U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story believed the national government should have more authority than did Tucker, both jurists interpreted the Second Amendment as liberty’s safeguard. In 1833, Story noted in his influential Commentaries of the Constitution: “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of the republic, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

These jurists repeated a widespread interpretation that had been practiced by the states. The first state constitutions — which remained unaltered and in effect after the Constitution’s ratification — protected individual rights to possess and bear arms and allowed for a state militia.

(more…)