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"Democracy passes into despotism" – Plato

21 Jul

       Before the existence of express political compacts it was reasonably implied that the magistrate should govern with wisdom and Justice, but mere implication was too feeble to restrain the unbridled ambition of a bad man, or afford security against negligence, cruelty, or any other defect of mind. It is alleged that the opinions and manners of the people of America, are capable to resist and prevent an extension of prerogative or oppression; but you must recollect that opinion and manners are mutable, and may not always be a permanent obstruction against the encroachments of government; that the progress of a commercial society begets luxury, the parent of inequality, the foe to virtue, and the enemy to restraint; and that ambition and voluptuousness aided by flattery, will teach magistrates, where limits are not explicitly fixed to have separate and distinct interests from the people, besides it will not be denied that government assimilates the manners and opinions of the community to it. Therefore, a general presumption that rulers will govern well is not a sufficient security. — You are then under a sacred obligation to provide for the safety of your posterity, and would you now basely desert their interests, when by a small share of prudence you may transmit to them a beautiful political patrimony, that will prevent the necessity of their travelling through seas of blood to obtain that, which your wisdom might have secured: — It is a duty you owe likewise to your own reputation, for you have a great name to lose; you are characterized as cautious, prudent and jealous in politics; whence is it therefore, that you are about to precipitate yourselves into a sea of uncertainty, and adopt a system so vague, and which has discarded so many of your valuable rights. — Is it because you do not believe that an American can be a tyrant? If this be the case you rest on a weak basis; Americans are like other men in similar situations, when the manners and opinions of the community are changed by the causes I mentioned before, and your political compact inexplicit, your posterity will find that great power connected with ambition, luxury, and flattery, will as readily produce a Caesar, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian in America, as the same causes did in the Roman empire. -George Clinton, Letter V, The New-York Journal, November 22, 1787

       As one of the founding fathers George Clinton found himself on the anti-federalist side of the constitutional debate because of his concern s dealing with the checks on the powers of the government. You can also see from this excerpt that he feared that the American attitudes would change, as the political climate would with it. He describes brilliantly here how the governments interests will separate from the people’s will. Let me reiterate again the most important line.

…opinion and manners are mutable, and may not always be a permanent obstruction against the encroachments of government; that the progress of a commercial society begets luxury, the parent of inequality, the foe to virtue, and the enemy to restraint; and that ambition and voluptuousness aided by flattery, will teach magistrates, where limits are not explicitly fixed to have separate and distinct interests from the people….

In the wisdom of a man who has studied and witnessed tyranny first hand he has also warned that Americans are not above the faults of the past. Man, as a whole unit, is the same in any place or any time, and will readily produce a tyrant for our times if we allow the greedy power hungry to reign supreme.
      These warnings echo down to us through time and fades on the ears of modern man. The luxury of our times have opened the gap between interests of the government and the governed. In George Clinton’s warnings about this was a begging for a proper checks and balances system to ensure the adherence to the principles behind the struggle to throw off the chains of the British government. This has been a struggle all through out our history. From the arguments of the anti-federalist vs federalists, Jefferson’s land acquisitions, Lincoln’s near dictatorial rule, FDR’s New Deal, Bush’s suspension of habeas corpus, to Obama in our current financial crisis. Now in our time this system is breaking down. In the new millennium, accelerating with Obama the executive is exerting its powers in the government to a near monarchical level with virtually no checking of its power from either of the other branches of government.
      As previously stated, there has been numerous examples of how the office of the presidency has over stepped the limitations originally set for by the constitution. The decisions of the office have begun to be revered as if that of a monarch. At one time it was the job of Congress to legislate and the executive to find the best way to execute the laws they pass. In recent times the congress has been regulated to an equal, if not lower, position in legislation as the office of the president. The most recent story that prompted this article is Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floating the possibility of a plan to allow the President to have the power to deal with the current debt ceiling situation. This clearly would go against the parts of the Constitution which gives the power to Congress to pay the debts and set the budget (Article I section 8). Public attention caused the idea to be squashed, but the principle behind such plan goes against everything that was intended by separating the branches of government. Virtually all the tyrannies of history have taken this same step. Money is power.
       Executive orders have been a way for the President to push the limits of the authority of the office for a long time. In the fear of crisis and chaos the President has been allowed to rule by decree (much like the monarchs previous centuries).Recently Obama has used these executive orders to restructure massive parts of the government while giving no consideration to Congress. Obama set up a whole new government council named, The Council of Governors. Through this council of 10 selected state governors the national security and defense agencies of the federal government will integrate and partner with state governments on various initiatives. With a stroke of his pen the President bypasses Congress and 40 of the states governors in issues that are remapping the relationship between federal and state in ways that are not provided for in the constitution nor have been amended to provide for since then.
     On the subject of executive order dictating major changes in the federal government, The Rural Council is another council that Obama has established recently. It is to integrate numerous federal agencies to go into rural America and dictate the way that rural America will do business and develop (with an eye towards big business’ interests being looked after) agriculture. To quote the order itself,

“Coordinate and increase the effectiveness of Federal engagement with rural stakeholders, including agricultural organizations, small businesses, education and training institutions, health-care providers, telecommunications services providers, research and land grant institutions, law enforcement, State, local, and tribal governments, and nongovernmental organizations regarding the needs of rural America.”

     On a slightly different issue, Obama has expanded America’s military rule in the world since he took office (as it has been continually expanding since the World Wars). Many people would question the legitimacy of many of the military actions that America has taken in the last seventy years due to the lack of Congress’ declaration of war, but the most recent situation in Libya has a slightly different issue. While congress never issued any decision for action to be taken in Libya Obama took the consolations and decisions of the UN as all the authority he needed. The extent to which the military will be involved in Libya is still yet to be seen out to the end, but as there is debate over the possibility of using ground forces (and numerous hints to the planning of further action somewhere in that region) Obama is going far beyond his statement of a short kinetic action into the realm of participating in a war. The question is which is worse, stepping on the Congress’ war powers act or as president taking direction from the UN over the elected representatives of Congress?
     This is only a minute list of the examples of how the office of the Presidency has been overstepping the parameters of the duties to which the office was given. The FCC is attempting to take control of the internet with or without Congressional approval. The EPA looks to enforcing draconian environmental regulations with or without Congress. The FDA also is starting to enforce restrictions against natural foods and supplements. This is not an attempt to bash Obama because each President has whittled away at the confines that the constitution gave to the Presidency. If allowed to go unchecked eventually the Presidency will chip away at those confines to the point at which the monarch of old will emerge from within (as they always do).

Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.– Plato

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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in constitution, Obama, tyranny

 

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