Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Dismantling America
Thomas Sowell

"We the people" are the familiar opening words of the Constitution of the United States-- the framework for a self-governing people, free from the arbitrary edicts of rulers. It was the blueprint for America, and the success of America made that blueprint something that other nations sought to follow.

At the time when it was written, however, the Constitution was a radical departure from the autocratic governments of the 18th century. Since it was something so new and different, the reasons for the Constitution's provisions were spelled out in "The Federalist," a book written by three of the writers of the Constitution, as a sort of instruction guide to a new product.

The Constitution was not only a challenge to the despotic governments of its time, it has been a continuing challenge-- to this day-- to all those who think that ordinary people should be ruled by their betters, whether an elite of blood, or of books or of whatever else gives people a puffed-up sense of importance.

While the kings of old have faded into the mists of history, the principle of the divine rights of kings to impose whatever they wish on the masses lives on today in the rampaging presumptions of those who consider themselves anointed to impose their notions on others.

The Constitution of the United States is the biggest single obstacle to the carrying out of such rampaging presumptions, so it is not surprising that those with such presumptions have led the way in denigrating, undermining and evading the Constitution.

While various political leaders have, over the centuries, done things that violated either the spirit or the letter of the Constitution, few dared to openly say that the Constitution was wrong and that what they wanted was right.

It was the Progressives of a hundred years ago who began saying that the Constitution needed to be subordinated to whatever they chose to call "the needs of the times." Nor were they content to say that the Constitution needed more Amendments, for that would have meant that the much disdained masses would have something to say about whether, or what kind, of Amendments were needed.

The agenda then, as now, has been for our betters to decide among themselves which Constitutional safeguards against arbitrary government power should be disregarded, in the name of meeting "the needs of the times"-- as they choose to define those needs.

The first open attack on the Constitution by a President of the United States was made by our only president with a Ph.D., Woodrow Wilson. Virtually all the arguments as to why judges should not take the Constitution as meaning what its words plainly say, but "interpret" it to mean whatever it ought to mean, in order to meet "the needs of the times," were made by Woodrow Wilson.

It is no coincidence that those who imagine themselves so much wiser and nobler than the rest of us should be in the forefront of those who seek to erode Constitutional restrictions on the arbitrary powers of government. How can our betters impose their superior wisdom and virtue on us, when the Constitution gets in the way at every turn, with all its provisions to safeguard a system based on a self-governing people?

To get their way, the elites must erode or dismantle the Constitution, bit by bit, in one way or another. What that means is that they must dismantle America. This has been going on piecemeal over the years but now we have an administration in Washington that circumvents the Constitution wholesale, with its laws passed so fast that the public cannot know what is in them, its appointment of "czars" wielding greater power than Cabinet members, without having to be exposed to pubic scrutiny by going through the confirmation process prescribed by the Constitution for Cabinet members.

Now there is leaked news of plans to change the immigration laws by administrative fiat, rather than Congressional legislation, presumably because Congress might be unduly influenced by those pesky voters-- with their Constitutional rights-- who have shown clearly that they do not want amnesty and open borders, despite however much our betters do. If the Obama administration gets away with this, and can add a few million illegals to the voting rolls in time for the 2012 elections, that can mean reelection, and with it a continuing and accelerating dismantling of America.

"We the people" are the central concern of the Constitution, as well as its opening words, since it is a Constitution for a self-governing nation. But "we the people" are treated as an obstacle to circumvent by the current administration in Washington.

One way of circumventing the people is to rush legislation through Congress so fast that no one knows what is buried in it. Did you know that the so-called health care reform bill contained a provision creating a tax on people who buy and sell gold coins?

You might debate whether that tax is a good or a bad idea. But the whole point of burying it in legislation about medical insurance is to make sure "we the people" don't even know about it, much less have a chance to debate it, before it becomes law.

Did you know that the huge financial reform bill that has been similarly rushed through Congress, too fast for anyone to read it, has a provision about "inclusion" of women and minorities? Pretty words like "inclusion" mean ugly realities like quotas. But that too is not something that "we the people" are to be allowed to debate, because it too was sneaked through.

Not since the Norman conquerors of England published their laws in French, for an English-speaking nation, centuries ago, has there been such contempt for the people's right to know what laws were being imposed on them.

Yet another ploy is to pass laws worded in vague generalities, leaving it up to the federal bureaucracies to issue specific regulations based on those laws. "We the people" can't vote on bureaucrats. And, since it takes time for all the bureaucratic rules to be formulated and then put into practice, we won't know what either the rules or their effects are prior to this fall's elections when we vote for (or against) those who passed these clever laws.

The biggest circumvention of "we the people" was of course the so-called "health care reform" bill. This bill was passed with the proviso that it would not really take effect until after the 2012 presidential elections. Between now and then, the Obama administration can tell us in glowing words how wonderful this bill is, what good things it will do for us, and how it has rescued us from the evil insurance companies, among its many other glories.

But we won't really know what the actual effects of this bill are until after the next presidential elections-- which is to say, after it is too late. Quite simply, we are being played for fools.

Much has been made of the fact that families making less than $250,000 a year will not see their taxes raised. Of course they won't see it, because what they see could affect how they vote.

But when huge tax increases are put on electric utility companies, the public will see their electricity bills go up. When huge taxes are put on other businesses as well, they will see the prices of the things those businesses sell go up.

If you are not in that "rich" category, you will not see your own taxes go up. But you will be paying someone else's higher taxes, unless of course you can do without electricity and other products of heavily taxed businesses. If you don't see this, so much the better for the Obama administration politically.

This country has been changed in a more profound way by corrupting its fundamental values. The Obama administration has begun bribing people with the promise of getting their medical care and other benefits paid for by other people, so long as those other people can be called "the rich." Incidentally, most of those who are called "the rich" are nowhere close to being rich.

A couple making $125,000 a year each are not rich, even though together they reach that magic $250,000 income level. In most cases, they haven't been making $125,000 a year all their working lives. Far more often, they have reached this level after decades of working their way up from lower incomes-- and now the government steps in to grab the reward they have earned over the years.

There was a time when most Americans would have resented the suggestion that they wanted someone else to pay their bills. But now, envy and resentment have been cultivated to the point where even people who contribute nothing to society feel that they have a right to a "fair share" of what others have produced.

The most dangerous corruption is a corruption of a nation's soul. That is what this administration is doing.

One of the few campaign promises that Barack Obama has kept was this: "We are going to change the United States of America!"

As in many other cases, those who were thrilled by the thought of "change" seldom seemed to consider whether it would be a change for the better or for the worse. True believers in the Obama cult assumed that it had to be a change for the better.

Now it is slowly dawning on more people that it is a change for the worse-- runaway government spending, under the banners of "stimulus" and "jobs" is not stimulating anything except political pay-offs to special interests. As for jobs, the percentage of the population with jobs keeping on declining, even as the administration points to all the jobs it is creating.

It is of course not pointing to all the other jobs that it is destroying, whether by taking money out of the private sector or by loading so many mandates on employers that labor is made artificially too expensive for many employers to do much hiring.

But the most dangerous and most lasting damage that this administration has done to this nation has been in the international jungle, where it is alienating our long-time allies, dismantling our credibility by reneging on our commitments to putting up a missile shield in Eastern Europe and-- above all-- doing nothing meaningful to stop the leading terror-sponsoring nation in the world, Iran, from getting nuclear weapons.

We could deter the Soviet Union with our own nuclear weapons, but no one can deter suicidal fanatics, whether they are international terrorists of the sort that caused 9/11 or suicidal fanatics in charge of the government of Iran, who have long been supplying international networks of suicidal fanatics.

Threatening to launch nuclear retaliation against the people of Iran will not deter them. They have already shown how little they care about the people of Iran and how much they care about their fanatical beliefs and hate-filled agendas.

How much does our own administration in Washington care about the American people and their national security? This is not a question you would usually have to ask about any administration of either party. But this is not like any other administration, and Barack Obama is unlike any other President of the United States in having come from a background of decades of associations and alliances with people who resent this country and its people.

Against that background, the Obama administration's undermining of our long-standing international alliances with Britain and Israel, among others, while seeking to reach accommodations with nations hostile to this country, raises painful questions and even more painful possibilities for the future.

Gratuitous affronts to both Britain and Israel began early in the Obama administration, including a clear downgrading of state visits from their national leaders. These affronts were pitched at a level unlikely to be noticed by the general public but unmistakable to anyone familiar with international relations, including both our allies and our enemies. But most of the pro-Obama media said little to alert the public.

It is not only in our foreign relations that the administration's commitment to the national security of the United States is open to serious question. Domestically, as well, the same serious and painful questions arise.

After spending hundreds of billions of dollars on political pork barrel projects from coast to coast-- some frivolous beyond belief-- its only major cut in federal spending has been its move to cut $100 billion from the Defense Department's budget.

If there was ever a time when we needed a larger standing army, as distinguished from relying on National Guard troops, taken suddenly from civilian life and sent on multiple tours of combat duty, this is that time. We need a bigger and constantly modernizing military, not a bargain basement military, trimmed down to leave more money for pork barrel spending.

Sometimes small things can give you a better clue than large things. A recent editorial in Investor's Business Daily pointed out that hundreds of captured illegal aliens from terrorist-sponsoring nations were released on their own recognizance within the United States. Are these the actions of an administration that is serious about the national security of the American people?

Dismantling America: Part IV

How did we get to the point where many people feel that the America they have known is being replaced by a very different kind of country, with not only different kinds of policies but very different values and ways of governing?

Something of this magnitude does not happen all at once or in just one administration in Washington. What we are seeing is the culmination of many trends in many aspects of American life that go back for years.

Neither the Constitution of the United States nor the institutions set up by that Constitution are enough to ensure the continuance of a free, self-governing nation. When Benjamin Franklin was asked what members of the Constitution Convention were creating, he replied, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

In other words, a Constitutional government does not depend on the Constitution but on us. To the extent that we allow clever people to circumvent the Constitution, while dazzling us with rhetoric, the Constitution will become just a meaningless piece of paper, as our freedoms are stolen from us, much as a pick-pocket would steal our wallet while we are distracted by other things.

It is not just evil people who would dismantle America. Many people who have no desire to destroy our freedoms simply have their own agendas that are singly or collectively incompatible with the survival of freedom.

Someone once said that a democratic society cannot survive for long after 51 percent of the people decide that they want to live off the other 49 percent. Yet that is the direction in which we are being pushed by those who are promoting envy under its more high-toned alias of "social justice."

Those who construct moral melodramas-- starring themselves on the side of the angels against the forces of evil-- are ready to disregard the Constitution rights of those they demonize, and to overstep the limits put on the powers of the federal government set by the Constitution.

The outcries of protest in the media, in academia and in politics, when the Supreme Court ruled this year that people in corporations have the same free speech rights as other Americans, are a painful reminder of how vulnerable even the most basic rights are to the attacks of ideological zealots. President Barack Obama said that the Court's decision "will open the floodgates for special interests"-- as if all you have to do to take away people's free speech rights is call them a special interest.

It is not just particular segments of the population who are under attack. What is more fundamentally under attack are the very principles and values of American society as a whole. The history of this country is taught in many schools and colleges as the history of grievances and victimhood, often with the mantra of "race, class and gender." Television and the movies often do the same.

When there are not enough current grievances for them, they mine the past for grievances and call it history. Sins and shortcomings common to the human race around the world are spoken of as failures of "our society." But American achievements get far less attention-- and sometimes none at all.

Our "educators," who cannot educate our children to the level of math or science achieved in most other comparable countries, have time to poison their minds against America.

Why? Partly, if not mostly, it is because that is the vogue. It shows you are "with it" when you reject your own country and exalt other countries.

Abraham Lincoln warned of people whose ambitions can only be fulfilled by dismantling the institutions of this country, because no comparable renown is available to them by supporting those institutions. He said this 25 years before the Gettysburg Address, and he was speaking of political leaders with hubris, whom he regarded as a greater danger than enemy nations. But such hubris is far more widespread today than just among political leaders.

Those with such hubris-- in the media and in education, as well as in politics-- have for years eroded both respect for the country and the social cohesion of its people. This erosion is what has set the stage for today's dismantling of America that is now approaching the point of no return.

To read another article by Thomas Sowell, click here.

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