Friday, June 03, 2011
[Our posting today is by guest Greg Cavanaugh. He discusses a type of political corruption that everyone is aware of but nobody does anything to end. At the end of his article, he writes that the remedy “will inevitably require a reboot of the system, beginning with new constitutional limitations on the government's exercise of power.” But how will such “constitutional limitations” come about? They certainly will not be made by Congress itself. There is, however, an alternative method: another constitutional convention. This is a subject I explored in my book The Trojan Project, which is a novel about restructuring the American system to align it with its original principles. I discuss a number of problems that could be remedied by—and only by—another such convention. I wish I had earlier thought of the issue Canavaugh has raised so that I could have included it my book. Cavanaugh's last line is that “such reform may not be possible absent a catastrophic economic event.” Readers of my 8-part series “Monetary Mess, the Dollar, Gold—and You” will recognize that such a catastrophic event is already looming on our horizon—if they didn't know it already from news reports of the U.S. debt and global monetary problems. By the time the monetary problems become a full-blown catastrophic crisis, many more people may be willing to consider a new constitutional convention as necessary for any solution.]
Here is Mr. Cavanaugh's article:
Senate Marjority Leader Harry Reid recently insisted upon continued federal funding for Nevada's cowboy poetry festival. Apparently, to find a place “where seldom is heard a discouraging word,” one need only go to Congress and ask for money.
America was blessed with a Constitution designed to “promote the general Welfare.” But we've perverted our public institutions into vehicles for promoting the welfare of some at the expense of others. If cowboys—the quintessential rugged individualists—can't be denied largesse under the reigning definition of legitimate government spending, then no one can.
One need look no further than the progressive movement for the roots of this disintegration of “E pluribus unum.” Ever since progressives redefined “general welfare” to include redistribution of wealth, Americans have been pitted against each other in a death match over pieces of the pie.
One ostensible justification for progressivism is that it is a legitimate outgrowth of our democratic process. Because a majority of public supports redistributive policies, the rationalization goes, those who oppose such policies are obligated by our social contract to go along.
The problem is that the redistributive ethic is itself a corruption of the democratic process. Consider: Federal and state laws make it illegal for a candidate to offer anything of value to a person in exchange for his or her vote. Under federal code, for example, a candidate for the U.S. Senate who promised a citizen a mere dollar for his vote would be guilty of a felony, punishable by five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
Nevertheless, as a consequence of our embrace of progressivism, politicians routinely stand in front of voters and promise them direct financial benefits—in amounts ranging from dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars—in exchange for their votes. These are not vague promises of the benefits to be realized from general prosperity, mind you, but concrete commitments to use the power of government to tax nonsupporters in order to transfer funds via government programs to supporters.
It is hardly surprising that government has grown exponentially. Indeed, the real surprise is that the demand for redistribution has not eclipsed property rights to an even greater extent. Perhaps our uniquely individualistic heritage has slowed the process. Perhaps it is merely an instinctive recognition that a parasite requires a viable host. In any case, as Thomas Jefferson warned, the inexorable trend has been for government to grow and liberty to yield.
A second proffered justification for the left's redistributive policies is “social justice”—the notion that there are objective moral principles that compel the redistribution of wealth from one group to another. This notion, appealing on its face, is equally corrupt and un-American.
Under American principles of justice, persons with a direct financial stake in a governmental decision may not participate in making that decision. Judges and jurors are routinely removed from cases in which they have a personal financial stake. Legislators are obliged to refrain from participating in decision that would directly impact their own financial interests.
Those on the left impose no such retraint upon themselves, however, pronouncing as “just” policies and programs that employ the force of government to take other people's wealth and transfer it directly into their own pockets.
Any attempt by fiscal reformers to simply “prioritize” redistributive programs is destined to fail; these programs are borne of power, not need. Restoring fiscal sanity will inevitably require a reboot of the system, beginning with new constitutional limitations on the government's exercise of power.
Now that even cowboys have bellied up to the federal bar for free drinks, such reform may not be possible absent a catastrophic economic event.