A funny thing happened on the way to the regulatory state
By Diane Alden
The federal government was given few, limited and enumerated powers. The Constitution grants the federal government powers over such issues as national defense, international trade and diplomacy, immigration procedures, maintenance of the monetary system, patents and copyright enforcement, bankruptcy procedures and the regulation of interstate commerce.
But in the last 75 years government has gone beyond the limits set by the Founders and strayed to the other end of the galaxy.
In the process the constitutional republic has been replaced by the regulatory state. What is left of the republic and the Bill of Rights is under assault from the trial lawyers, the environmental movement, anti-gun lobby, the corporate-government-foundation triad, the congress (as separation of powers becomes history), runaway taxes, federal and state regulatory monster, a corrupt press, a court system which has lost its way, dumbed down education, a self absorbed citiznery and a debased culture. What has happened to the republic might be called the Madison Effect, in honor of James Madison's famous dictum that "men love power."
What went wrong in the republic has many fathers. Some of the problems date back to the 1800s when America's intellectuals adopted a philosophy hatched in Prussian universities. A philosophy which has spawned everything from Nazism to communism to environmentalism to Freudian psychology. A creed which is at odds with the intellectual tradition of the Founders. However, it was a system of thought and philosophy which fit very well with the growth of the state and the demise of individual freedom.
Many American intellectuals swallowed the collectivist--statist bilge and passed it on to generations of young people some of whom became the elitist left. America's educated elite promoted the growth of the state by insinuating the activist federal government on America. The Great Depression was the major catalyst for the the success of the statist philosophy and subsequent growth of the federal government. Americans began to like the interference of the state in their lives because it came with money and promises of one sort or another and a sense of security. We became more interested in what government could do for us than what we could do for ourselves.
Once upon a time in the republic called America people were smart enough to know that government never does anything for free. Government has no conscience and it will do or say anything to get power and control. A republican form of government is supposed to take care of that problem. But we are no longer a constitutional republic. We are a nation with a plebiscite and the whim of the majority is our creed. We call ourselves a nation of laws not men. Unfortunately, someone never told the government or the federal court system that there was a point where even a good thing can become a bad thing. We have overdone a good thing. At the moment we are drowning in regulatory law.
Rather than being as judicious as the Founders and keeping it simple--stupidly we wove the noose that is strangling us. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution were simple and straight forward coda. But we took a classic construction and stuck ribbons and bows on it, tore at the hem and the sleeves, and ended up with something we can't wear. But by gum the government is going to make sure we are covered in something aka the regulatory state.
Two of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century were the Great Depression and the various social and cultural movements of the 60s. Both were born in idealism stemming from 19th century German philosophy and a bastardized version of Judeo-Christian tradition. The only one of the movements worth the trouble was the civil rights movement for blacks. The rest merely cheapened the civil rights struggle.
Moreover, the Great Depression wasn't just an economic tragedy it was the death knell for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The federal Nanny State began when Roosevelt instituted the New Deal. That in turn became Truman's Fair Deal, and LBJ's "war on poverty."
Double Your Trouble
Since John Kennedy the number of federal agencies has doubled. Nearly every president since Roosevelt has added their own particular "war." Each "war" requires its own bureaucracy. Over the years, presidential, congressional and court rule making in regards to our war mentality has led us to the ten headed dragon better known as the federal bureaucracy.
It is the nature of bureaucracy that the process and paper work are more important than the results. The Federal Register a daily report on new and proposed regulations went from 15,000 pages in 1963 to over 70,000 pages today. The cost of government is nearly $2 trillion a year. The cost and the results are are not in sync.
However, it was the loss of self-discipline and self-control and standards during the 60s, which pushed American civilization towards the regulatory state. We moved closer to the day government becomes our conscience, our policeman, and our master. The occurence of the Depression and the cultural debacle of the 60s in the same century were a disaster for us. These two historic trends have driven us beyond constitutional crisis and moral crisis. We are in societal free fall a few feet from hitting bottom.
In the early 1900s the passage of the 16th amendment creating the income tax was the beginning of nearly unlimited funding for the regulatory state. Then the withholding tax came into the lives of Americans for the good reason called World War II. But this so called "temporary tax" never went away. During the 20th century taxes expanded from one percent in 1912 to over 50 percent in some cases today.
Taxes are taken from the most productive sector of society and given to the inefficient monolith called the federal government. Meanwhile, regulations grow at every level exponentially. Today the "surpluses" generated by taxes is not given back to the people but are kept to prop up inefficient, unproductive government programs and create more. The president's proposes to earmark 62 percent of the budget surplus to "save" Social Security which ensures that the system will continue to rely on debt and IOUs rather than savings and personal investment.
It is the methods and programs we have chosen to deal with our problems which have impelled us towards the out of control regulatory state. Tax revenues will total nearly $1.9 trillion in 2000, which is 20.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The regulatory state costs each man, woman and child in the U.S. $7,000 a year on top of taxes.
Government inefficiencies are legendary and rather than downsizing as a sensible business would, we allow it to grow as never before. However, the government behemoth did not develop over night.
During our wars emergency powers are granted for various reasons. For instance "habeas corpus" was temporarily lifted during the Civil War and the first income tax was instituted. In WWII Japanese Americans were rounded up and put in concentration camps - just in case; a blatant violation of the Bill of Rights. The War Powers Act passed in the 70s gave the executive branch the ability by pass Congress in emergency situtions. Bill Clinton has used this beyond all reason. The "war" in Kosovo was fought for months without congressional approval. That should have been the impeachable offense rather than an imbroglio over some stains on an intern's blue dress.
As the cartoon character Pogo would say, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
It cost trillions of dollars and the combined efforts of millions of people but the West defeated Soviet commnunism and won the Cold War. Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II led the final charge up and over the Berlin Wall. It succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. After 45 years the Cold War was an overnight success. But, suddenly we were faced with what to do with the bureaucracies and "war" mentality we had in place. Of course the obvious answer was to find another enemy.
Turning our eyes and efforts inward the current president, the congress, the media, academia, government employees, lawyers, the pundits, et al focus on the new enemy. Because Americans have become such irresponsible bad boys, and since the boomers trashed an imperfect but pretty good culture by their excesses, we are now told that the Bill of Rights is no longer relevant to our era. In a thousand ways, including 22,000 gun laws on the books, the powers that be have taken the freedoms under the Bill of Rights, muted them, removed all meaning and replaced them with the trend of the moment i.e. political correctness. Real freedoms have become dangerous to the survival of the elites and the regulatory state.
In recent years the number of "emergency" situations has grown and so do the issuance of executive orders. Nowadays, executive orders are used for everything from privacy issues to taking millions of acres of land away from the states and putting them ever more firmly under federal control.
In one of his more notorious executive orders Bill Clinton sought to rework federalism by handing himself and future presidents more broad and sweeping powers than ever before, powers Caesar would envy. A couple of incensed Congressmen and state governors, still on speaking terms with the Constitution, stopped it. Still Bill cranks them out faster than Congress can say Al Gore invented the internet. The fact that the Clinton administration tried the maneuver at all says something about the state of the republic, the corruption in the heart of the left, and the incurable statist mindset of the democrats and republicans who would allow it.
Increasingly, the federal alphabet agencies have trouble knowing where the line is between the "enemy" and citizens exercising their constitutional guarantees. There is very little oversight of agency activities. Mostly they have the rotten job of being enforcers of the regulatory state. Under Janet Reno's watch at the Justice Department, agency morale has tanked as the alphabet agencies are used as tools to deal with political enemies. While this has been true during other administrations the Clinton's have raised it to an art form.
Meanwhile the list of enemies of the state have grown to include, tobacco, gun manufacturers, implants, Microsoft, ranchers, loggers, miners, hot coffee, diet drugs, air bags, not having air bags, the internal combustion engine, cows, Rush Limbaugh, Ken Starr, perfume, the smell of peanuts on aircraft, drugs, hate speech, mattresses, doctors, car seats, SUVs, fast foods, the list is endless.
Making war on ourselves with the eternal law suit has replaced baseball and bowling as a national sport. It makes lawyers rich while adding a horrendous legal and regulatory burden to a free society. Americans appear like the biggest bunch of fools, idiots, and cry babies who have ever walked the earth. The American "way" is no longer the freedom to make informed choices it is becoming "sue everyone who has any money until their eyes pop."
The "root" cause of all this government growth and over reaction has to do with what Americans expect from government. The other "root" is the free lunch and victimhood syndrome prevalent in American society. Phil Donahue and Oprah did a marvelous job showing us what victims and cry babies we are.
Moreover, America has run into deep trouble because we have dumped the moral and ethical ground rules; while refusing to take responsibility for our choices and actions. Doing "right" has been replaced by getting "rights." Taking personal responsibility has been replaced by blaming everyone but ourselves and then telling government to do something about it. But that belief has its unintended consequences and requires more government agencies which cost a great deal while accomplishing very little.
Government now takes over 20 percent of the GNP. Government employees at the state level make 10.3 percent higher than those in the private sector. The average federal government employee -- excluding the military -- makes 47 percent more than the average private sector employee. Studies have shown that government employees are less productive, take more time off, have far better benefits, and retire earlier than those in the private sector. According to the government's own figures, federal employees average wage and benefit package is worth $63,000 per year, while the average in the private sector is $40,000 per year.
The reason for this is there is no competition in government. It has unlimited funds and a lock on the delivery of certain services. Government department heads are promoted according to the size of their budgets not according to how fast they downsize. Every time the alphabet agencies go on a rampage or get in trouble it is usually at budget time or when they are trying to expand their turf. Waco and Ruby Ridge and all the rest of the debacles didn't happen in a vacuum. Not one flak jacketed bureaucrat paid any kind of a price for either horror. But government jobs are so secure that it takes egregious mistakes or blowing the whistle on the government or Bill Clinton in order to get punished.
If government did have competition, services of the same or higher quality can often be purchased through the competitive market for 20 to 60 percent less. Despite the fact that competitive contractors must pay taxes and earn profits.
Government's fundamental fiscal problem is costs not funding. It costs $710 billion to finance regulatory agencies. The cost of doing federal business is three times that of 1970. Spending increased 50 percent between the end of the Reagan administration and the Clinton adminstration. Environmental regs alone take 1/10 of the national income. Higher tax revenues are not the answer. Without controlling the cost of government while providing it with unlimited funds, we are giving the keys of the family car to a drunken 16-year-old and telling him to be careful and actually believing he will.
The left and some on the right refuse to allow competition from the private sector, however, because at heart they are statists. They really believe that government can mold human nature to specifications if only it is given enough money to do the job.
They hate right wing Christians for being judgmental and say they resent it when they try to to jam their moral beliefs down everyone's throats. However, the left is the worst offender in this regard. Because it is the left who are convinced that molding human nature and behavior can be accomplished by government regulation.
Religion doesn't have nearly the control over Americans that government does. Ask yourself on April 15 where coercion is coming from, the little white church down the block or the big brick building in D.C. with the IRS emblem on the front. Is it right wing Christians who are piling law upon law or is it the actions of the left demanding more from the federal government?
The left's greatest fear is that the United States will become a theocracy. Yet their belief system allows for the replacement of traditional "God" given rights with those handed out by the state. Failing to recognize that when men design the state it will always opt to save itself at the expense of the individual.
Drowning in Law
Currently, our regulatory state is conducting a new war. It has decided to disarm law-abiding citizens by using "children." Instead of addressing the moral and cultural failures of society it deals with the symptoms. The state is not content with 22,000 gun laws on the books because it is really after registration and/or confiscation and bringing the Madison Effect to perfection.
Environmental regulations under the endangered species act recently cost three people their lives. Last year during the big rains in California massive flooding occured in an area where a levee was not rebuilt. The reason, government regulations forbad rebuilding until 5 elderberry bushes were moved to wetlands to be created at the cost of millions and millions of dollars in order to accomodate an endangered beetle. The regulatory state doesn't care about cost-benefit ratio. More to the point it doesn't care about human beings either. The state cares about expanding and maintaining its power. The Madison Effect writ large.
While attempting to take arms from private citizens, government arms federal agencies and discusses the possibility of using the military during civil disturbances. Secretary Cohen in November of 1999 gave a speech about military-civilian agency cooperation. At about the same time there was a meeting in Washington, D.C. where a senator from a western state and her colleagues discussed the possibility of getting rid of "possee comitatus." This is the rule that says the military can not be used against American civilians. But government has already done that. Military advisors and military vehicles were used at Waco, a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent.
Calls for downsizing and disarming government never work. In the last ten years the only government function that got cut was the military. They have been downsized and defunded. Spare parts are at a premium and morale is as low or lower than that in other federal agencies. The national defense is one of the few powers or responsibilities given to government and it is the one it is dismantling.
The military has been required to do more with less; while Bill Clinton used them in his quest to build his "legacy" and spread empire far and wide. The post Cold War peace benefit was frittered away while he camouflaged his personal problems by being a "leader" and using his position as commander-in-chief.
Meanwhile, congress on both sides of the aisle, consistently refuse to unload their pet porcine projects. Thereby setting no example as they make more laws and add to the infinite regulatory burden to the lives of the citizens they are supposed to serve. Shades of the Roman Senate during the rise of Julius Caesar.
Culture of Resistance
According to legal scholar Professor Joel Handler, law has created a "culture of resistance." He maintains: "Instead of fostering cooperation it destroys it. By emphasizing violations rather than problems, regulation creates bitterness and adversaries. Everything must be put on the record. . a culture of resistance sets in."
The regulatory state has accomplished just that. But businessmen and the average citizen finds numerous ways around regulation. If they didn't life would be even more complex and difficult than it already is. For the businessman it may not be filling out each and every form or taking cash and not reporting it. For the rancher who possibly has an endangered species on his property it may boil down to "shoot, shovel and shut up." Government inflicts regulations instead of asking for cooperation by setting agreed upon goals and allowing Americans to find their own system to meet those goals. In other words, government and the left are control freaks.
Government does not usually willingly restrict itself or change entrenched policy. That is why revolution and "movements" take place.
The founders tried to avoid the possibility of civil disruption by outlining the separation of powers and giving us the Bill of Rights. We are the ones who have screwed it up. Government activism has replaced the principles in the Bill of Rights with a new set of conditions and laws which have more to do with the survival of government than the enhancement and growth of individual freedom.
In his seminal work, "The Death of Common Sense," legal scholar Phillip K. Howard maintains: "The rules, procedures, and rights smothering us are different aspects of a legal technique that promises a fix for human frailty.law is cleansed of all human input.rights are absolute so that choices among conflicting groups never need to be addressed, much less balanced."
Justice Anton Scalia said about the condition of the regulatory state: "the executive enfeebling measures of modern law, do not specifically deter regulation.what they deter is change, including change by dissolving the encrusted regulations of past decades."
Alas, unless there is a return to a national standard of morality and ethics based on more than political correctness the regulatory state will grow until it consumes everything and everyone in its path.
The state will become our conscience and our moral arbiter.
Old Dead White Guys
The left calls the Founding Fathers, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton and the rest a bunch of irrelevant racist old dead white guys. But they don't recognize the fact that the philosophy of the American Founders, with their traditional western Judeo-Christian ideas and principles were replaced with the philosophy of a bunch of 19th century racist old dead German white guys. Hegel, Engels, Marx, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer are among the founding fathers of the left.
Most Americans have no clue why they or the left think they way they do. The public doesn't know that there has been 150 years of Prussian philosophy absorbed by intellectuals coming out of American academia. The American educational system from kindergarten to college was brought to us via Prussia. Most of the goals of education are those instituted in Prussia after the Napoleonic wars and adopted by American education. For years, Prussian philosophy has competed with the Western tradition of the founders. In the early 1800s east coast intellectuals, approximately 10,000 sons of the aristocracy, studied in Prussian universities. They absorbed the philosophical outlook of the statist philosophy. Massachusetts Governor Edward Everett was America's first Ph.D which he obtained in Germany. He along with educator Horace Mann and others passed the collectivist dogma onto intellectuals for generations to come. To this day the Prussian mindset has infected the professions of law, education, journalism, and the humanities.
The constant turmoil between the two philosophies has morphed into the tyranny imposed by the regulatory state. It has also led to the polarization of American society.
In the tyranny of the state the individual is only important as he relates to the survival of the state. That's what a statist is. They don't believe in individual freedom -- they do believe in the supremacy of the state. Those who promote the end of American sovereignty and the adoption of a monolithic global government are also responsible for the end of individual liberty. Government is always best at the local level. The farther away it gets from the people it is supposed to support the more tyrannical and dictatorial it becomes. Local government with all its imperfections is usually more efficient and more receptive to the needs of citizens. But the globalists are the intellectual descendants of the German philosophers. As Hegel wrote, "the highest duty of the individual is to be a member of the state."
The left sincerely believes that their views are based on "humane" ideals that grew out of the work of FDR and New Deal democracy. Heck, even FDR probably believed that. After all both he and Woodrow Wilson were the products of an eastern university. Admittedly, FDR was also pragmatic, humane and an idealistic man with dead on political instincts. However, he never understood or perhaps he didn't care to admit that the power of the state either has to grow or it dies. In either case something fills the vacuum. That something else may be despotism and tyranny or freedom.
The left would scream bloody murder if they really understood that their philosophical base had developed in the same cultural and intellectual melting pot as did that of Adolph Hitler. Adolph just mixed Prussian philosophy with nationalism and ethnic and racial hatred. His "right" became the greatest wrong of the 20th century.
The core beliefs of Hitler and the left depend upon materialism, the "right" intentions of men, slavish allegiance to the state, a worship of nature, belief that human nature can be molded by using state mandates, fixation on the needs of the moment, and a bastardization of both language and the Judeo-Christian tradition.
For some reason it doesn't dawn on most Americans that it is the left rather than the right which glorifies the state. They seem oblivious that this trend is dangerous, self-defeating and anti-human.
Human nature being as foolish as it is a lot of well meaning Americans will continue their fight to erode the Bill of Rights for the sake of the "children." There will be more "million mom marches" stirred by the collectivists. With malice aforethought, Chuck Schummer and Hillary Clinton and their ideological soul mates will continue to tear away at the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as the media cheers them on.
Americans will have another chance in November to make a change. If they reelect the statists like Al Gore and most of the Democrats and moderate Republicans they hurry the day when the politicians don't even pay lip service to the Constitution. If Republicans don't wake up and defang the regulatory state the Bill of Rights might as well be taken off life support.
In the end history will be the harshest of judges. It will condemn us because we took freedom for granted. It will define our generation in the same terms we define yesteryear's slave owners and bigots. It is too bad that it will be future generations, the "chidren's children" who will be the losers in the battle for the soul of America. The liberty defined in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution will be part of nostalgia just like old Star Trek episodes or clunky shoes or disco music. Part of our memory but not part of our life.
In the meantime -- welcome to the brave new regulatory state.
Diane Alden is a research analyst and writer. Contributing to Newsmax, Etherzone, Enter Stage Right, American Partisan, Spin Tech, Liberty Caucus, Georgia Radio Inc., as well as Range Magazine. Contact her at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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