Breaking Government’s Power Vaccuum by Charles Cooper

In America, government is a system.  It is a system whose object is to promote freedom for her people.  It is no mistake that the system manual, the Constitution, puts almost all of its emphasis on restraining the system instead of restraining the people.

And yet, our system grows in scope and power every year—often to the detriment of her people’s freedom.  Our government may have recently met the only restraint that could contain it, the availability of money.  Yet Congress sweeps this problem under the rug and out of view while concealing the ever growing financial crisis that if left unchecked threatens to throw the country into economic ruin sometime in the near future.

The only goal of our government is to ensure the most freedom for the greatest number of our citizens.  Everything else is up to those citizens and to some extent, luck.  To achieve this goal, the Constitution limits government’s power—not the liberty of its people.  But how do we the people ensure that the government obeys its own supreme law?  I would suggest, as a means of containing government, is an establishment of the scope of government as an absolute.  The only thing Government can do that individuals cannot is use force to achieve an end, moderate disputes among her people, and make agreements with our fellow nations.

Second, we must agree on three principles as fundamental and then integrate them into a staged-gate algorithm where failure at any one stage prevents something from becoming a law.  These principles are:

1.       Equality: Toward that end, all people will be treated as equal under the law without regard for any characteristic or choice they have made.

2.       Property Rights and the right to contract: All people will have without fail the fundamental right to own property and to make bargains and trades as they see fit.  Two consenting adults make an agreement.

3.       Justice: Government cannot correct for the natural results of decisions made by people.  It will only be allowed to interfere where some fraud or other violation of rights has occurred.

Through those filters, the algorithm for law making looks like this:

1.       Is the purpose of the bill to enable freedom, choice, or otherwise create the opportunity for people to further their potential?  Yes, continue to the next question.  No, stop here:  this is not a question for our government.

2.       Does the law apply equally to all citizens all of the time?  Yes, continue to the next question.  No, stop here:  this is not a legal action for our government.

3.       Is there a private sector, market based solution currently in place?  Yes, stop here: this is not an issue for government.  No, continue to the next question.

4.       What is the best approach for solving this issue, creating a market or creating a law?  If market, then create a private sector solution. If Law, continue.

5.       By now, you’ve found that Government only has two purposes, defending the people and their rights and ensuring that people reasonably uphold contracts.  Everything else belongs to the states or the people, and I question the role of the states outside of the same algorithm.

Every individual in this world has a “power pie” that divides neatly into only two pieces.  Those pieces are the power that one has and the power that one gives away.  In order for all people to achieve their full potential, they must retain as much power as possible.  It is no wonder, then, that when the Government of the United States was so small and constrained, our people achieved so much.  Government is a power vacuum, drawing on your potential, feeding itself and growing larger and stronger.  This is why every generation is called on to fight for its freedom.  This is why the fight to constrain government seems so futile and so lost.

But the fight for freedom and to limit government’s power is not futile: a biannual peaceful revolution is built into our government, every four years a complete revolution at the ballot box.  It is designed to allow for a reset constraining its growth.  This begs the question, where is the will to reset?  Where is the will to eject the specter of power from its place of establishment?

The answer is just as simple. The will to reset government’s seeming one-way track to more power and more resources is in each of us. The desire to make our own destiny instead of accepting a mundane fate of common outcomes and common mediocrity pervades who we are as a people.  We must seize on this desire to be free and act on it by choosing elected representatives who share a love of freedom before the cost of our patience is blood.

About the Author:

CHARLES COOPER is the President of C3 Acquisitions, a company that conducts analysis, builds effective business processes and provides proposal and project management services to companies seeking to expand their business base.  He is a long time conservative activist working to restrain the growth of government.

A Presidents’ Day Shout Out to Grover Cleveland

In honor of Presidents’ Day, let’s revisit a topic from one of our Nineteenth Century Presidents. Grover Cleveland has the distinction of being one of America’s most prolific users of the veto pen (second only to FDR, who, let’s be honest, was elected to four terms to Cleveland’s modest two.)

Following droughts in Texas, Congress passed an appropriations bill to spend $10,000 (about $289,000 in today’s dollars) to buy seed for farmers whose crops had failed. President Cleveland vetoed the bill and issued what would become one of his most famous veto messages:

“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”

This quote addresses one of the main criticisms I hear when I talk about limited government. Many people ask me, “If not for the government, who would help the less fortunate? Who would help in a time of need?” The questioner makes a faulty assumption: if the government does not step in, then no one will.

The assumption ignores hundreds of years of history where charity was squarely a private endeavor administered through churches and faith organizations, guilds and mutual aid societies. Since the days of Grover Cleveland, our federal government has assigned itself a far-reaching role as a provider of assistance to the needy.  Theodore Roosevelt famously proposed his “Square Deal.” Not to be outdone, FDR proposed a “New Deal.” Following this act, Lyndon Johnson had his “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” initiatives.  Currently Barack Obama has made a theme of saying wealthier Americans need to pay more in taxes (i.e., “their fair share”) so the federal government can continue to fund ever growing entitlement programs.

But can government effectively address issues of poverty? Is it the most efficient provider of aid? The answer to this question relates back to my faith in the individual and the spirit of mankind to help fellow man. It isn’t that those in favor of limited government don’t want to help others; it’s that they know the government is often the least efficient way of doing so. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in Civil Disobedience, “[The] government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.”

Just this past holiday season, a heartwarming story in the news told of citizens going into K-Mart and paying off the layaway accounts of random customers. During October 2011’s unprecedented snowfall, one of my relatives lost power for days. It wasn’t the government that stepped in to lend a hand to my disabled uncle; rather, it was his neighbor who had his own generator who ran an industrial-strength electric cord between the houses to run my uncle’s refrigerator, saving him hundreds of dollars in food. My husband’s family, after being burdened with serious medical expenses, witnessed the love of fellow man when family friends organized a town-wide fundraiser. The town raised enough money to cover hospital expenses, pay for the family to fly out to the hospital in the middle of the country, and stay long enough to see their loved one heal. It wasn’t government aid, but the love of friends, that made this possible.

We must never lose faith in the spirit of the individual to do good. It’s only when we lose faith in ourselves that we fall prey to the belief that the government is the best and only way to solve our problems. Visionaries like Orson Wells saw it clearly. If we lose faith in each other and ourselves, we turn to the government to be our “Big Brother,” to take care of us under the mistaken belief that we can no longer take care of ourselves. And once we delegate all of our being, all of our power, all of our selves, to that amorphous entity known as “the government,” we give up the gift with which human beings have been blessed, the spirit of man.

A Heart-Shaped Box…OF CHOCOLATE CONTRACEPTIVES!

Ahh love! It’s Valentine’s Day, so what better topic to discuss than love…and contraceptives?! Contraception is all the rage the past few days.

First, a quick look at how we got here.

In August last year, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Obama administration would enact new guidelines for women’s health to take effect on August 1, 2012. The guidelines are authorized by the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Health Care Law or as some have called it, “ObamaCare”) and are an example of the many vague holes in the law which give the Secretary of HHS the authority to issue new regulations. The specific mandate was that all new health insurance plans would have to provide free contraceptives without a deductible or co-pay.

The real firestorm came on January 20, when Mr. Obama announced that churches would be exempted from the requirement, but that faith-based non-profit organizations (e.g., Catholic Hospitals) would be required to provide employer insurance plans including free contraceptives.  Today we stand with an odd compromise where religious charities don’t have to pay for contraceptives—but the contraceptives must be offered to anyone who asks—at no charge to the religious organization.  This compromise leaves insurers not charging separately for the contraceptives (preventing a direct charge to religious organizations)  but having to pay for them—the cost being charged back to consumers in general.

This is the sort of chicanery that accompanies government intrusion into private affairs.

For the record, Freedom Forge Press is not against contraceptives, women, women’s health, religion, government, or insurance companies.  We do stand against the government pretending that it has the authority to create new rights.

Right: Choosing to buy and use (or choosing not to buy and use) birth control (and in a larger sense, health care in general)

Not a right: Free contraceptives (and in a larger sense, health care in general)

Let’s pause on the term “free” for a moment. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Cupid doesn’t go around shooting free birth control from his quiver. Someone or some company has to pay to research, produce, package, and transport them to a store. So when a government bureaucrat, Department Secretary, Congressman, or President says that birth control has to be offered “free” with no deductible or co-pay, insurers will either try to capture a birth control fairy, or raise their prices across the board to cover the prices they will have to pay for contraceptives without being able to charge co-pays or deductibles.

The media storm has blown the issue askew, presenting it as a question of women’s rights. Anyone siding with the Catholic Church is viewed as standing against women’s reproductive health. The truth is, this isn’t the issue at all. The issue that should be debated is not whether insurance providers must offer birth control free of charge, but whether the government has any right to make this mandate in the first place.

If you stand as part of the camp that cheers this sort of government intrusion into the private sector, consider this: the same government that has the power to grant the right to “free” contraceptives also has the power to revoke this right should public opinion change and even deny individuals the ability to have contraceptives.

The Winter is My Discontent by Val Muller

Growing up in Connecticut, I’ve had my fair share of winter. There were years when we had to shovel the yard—just to create a pathway to the woodpile. I always knew I hated snow. It’s just that when asked, I could never quite explain my reasoning.

When I moved to Pennsylvania, snow still tormented me. Once, while living in a small city, my car was plowed in under five feet of the white stuff. Even though the office was closed and I had nowhere to go, I awoke early to dig out my car. Everyone else was still inside enjoying the first of four snow days. But not me.

“Just relax,” everyone told me. “Winter is a slow time. A cozy time.” Indeed, even the local news was warning people against extraneous shoveling due to heart attack risk. “Have a cup of hot chocolate and come watch a movie marathon with us,” everyone said. “Leave your car for later. Besides, the plow will make a second pass, and that will make it easier to shovel.”

But I couldn’t. It wasn’t mere stir-crazy running through my veins and driving me to dig. There was an animal pacing inside me, breathing and snorting and waiting, an animal bothered by some terrible, oppressive force.

It was the lack of freedom.

Snowed in and living in a city, I was dependent on so many factors for my very survival. The grocery store was three miles away, an impossible walk in so much snow. The electric lines hung precariously under ancient, snow-laden branches. The hospital located only a mile down the street became a treacherous half-globe away, with city sidewalks still buried under freshly-packed snow from the plow. The snow had drastically reduced my freedoms, and it was that which nagged me.

Without cleared roads, a medical emergency could become a death sentence. Without cleared roads, a downed power line could become a survival situation. In the middle of a city, there aren’t forests to forage, nor animals to hunt or wood to chop. I was in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s nightmare. I was completely reliant on the city—a nonhuman, bureaucratic entity. And so I cleared my car so that at the very least, I had the freedom to move. And when my car had been cleared, those movie marathoners certainly had no qualms about asking for rides.

It occurred to me then just why I love spring and summer, and detest the winter.

It has to do with freedom.

Spring offers the ultimate opportunity for self-reliance. It is in the spring that we can choose to sow the seeds of a new garden. It is in the spring when the ground thaws. The narrow path from back door to woodpile has opened to encompass any other possibility—an open plain rather than a series of constricting coordinates. We can chart new paths in our own yard or move about and discover new ones beyond it. Our cars are parked unfettered, ready to drive off at a moment’s notice.

The winter, with her mounds of snow and frozen ground, confines us, forces us to rely on society and trust that we will be provided for. We sit around and wait for the plow. Or the utility company. Winter prevents us from acting for ourselves.

And that inability to act in order to make our own lives better—that lack of self-reliance—contradicts the very spirit of man.

It’s why we need something to occupy us when awaiting news from the doctor. It’s why we push ourselves harder each day at the gym or challenge ourselves to read more or tackle the most difficult of the Sudoku puzzles. It’s why I shoveled feet and feet of snow off my car despite having nowhere to go.

Man must be given the freedom to act in order to improve himself.

Freedom is the summer night during which we can sleep under the stars and make campfires and roast marshmallows and grill dinner—dinner we caught ourselves, if we so desire. It is the carefree summer days when we are given leave to go on an exotic vacation or tackle our pile of books-to-be-read or go back to school or write a novel or learn how to quilt. And what a wonderful life if summer were to last forever.

Nature provides us with enough winter, enough opportunities when we are forced to rely on others. We need not produce our own winter in the form of a government that encourages too much reliance on others. A government that tells me it knows what is best for me and my money. A government that would rather I wait for the snow plow than excavate my own car. A government that tells me if I work too hard, I deserve to pay more money for those who don’t—or that I should give those who chose not to dig out their own cars a ride to the store in my newly-shoveled car.

If you ask me, I’d take the soft chirping of crickets against the harsh scraping of a city plow any day.

About the Author:

VAL MULLER is a fiction writer and teacher living in Virginia.  Her first novel Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive is a middle-grade mystery.  You can keep track of her at www.valmuller.com

February 14 Guest Blog

Submit an original blog post of approximately 850 words.  Theme should incorporate freedom and *sigh* LOVE (of course)!  General comments under “Blog/Guest Blog Entries” on our Submission Guidelines page will also be areas for consideration.  That’s it!  We’ve never been big on rules unless absolutely necessary, so have fun with it.  Your submission should be sent to freedomforgepress (at) gmail (dot) com with Subject: “February 14 Guest Blog Submission”.  Entries are due by 11:59pm EST Friday, February 10, 2012.

Winning entry will be posted to the website–at this time no financial payment is possible, but you will have full bragging rights that your posting will win the hearts of Valentine’s Day fans across the world!