Sequestration is the most recent flash-drama occupying what could otherwise be a profound public dialogue on the character of our Constitution and on the “Republican form of government” it guarantees “to every state in this union” (Art IV, §4).
Our Constitution also requires that “a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time” (Art. I, §9).
The very idea is ludicrous that not increasing our federal spending by another $80 billion this year at a time when we have $17 trillion in national debt and an annual budget of $3.5 trillion is somehow a crisis. This is a debate that ought not dignify either our public discourse or the actions of our constitutional establishments.
Any organization which cannot cut its nominal budget by $0 dollars, i.e., not cut it at all, without having a panic attack is unworthy of any further funding by those who pay for it.
“We the people” should be demanding the sequestration of the paychecks of all members of Congress and of the president until we have a published an intelligible “statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money.”
By the way, the international law definition of “sequester,” according to Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, is “to requisition, hold, and control (enemy property).”
What is more profound than the sequestration diversion, and worthy of our consideration, is the president’s recent rhetoric about “fairness” and his insistence on further increasing the disproportionate seizure of freely contracted private property from a minority of the population in order to redistribute it to his favored clients.
To pretend that this rhetoric about “fairness” in the redistribution of private property is somehow progressive is a manipulation of the English language. The term “progress” connotes some tangible, desirable end-state assumed by the pursuit of the supposedly “progressive” measure. But what does the taxing of the rich minority in order to redistribute it to the favored patrons of a political party actually progress this society towards?
To what end does the communalization of all risk and responsibility (most recently in the form of healthcare) progress? A simple review of the Oxford English Dictionary would lead an objective bystander to associate the president’s ideological agenda with the word “socialism.”
The president’s redistributive agenda, simply stated, violates the social contract theory embodied in our Constitution (see, e.g., Art. I, §10). Given that nobody in government seems to care, we can only hope that the fate of the president’s redistributive agenda will ultimately be determined by “We the People” based upon our individual beliefs, experiences, and the examples of other countries — not on a cleverly organized sequester diversion.
A strong case can be made that the president’s agenda is much more regressive than progressive in that it seeks to take us back to the 1930s in America, to the 1920s in the U.S.S.R., or even to the majority of pre-modern societies before Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations.”
If history does not persuade the average citizen that there is nothing progressive about the president’s rhetoric, then a cold look at some stubborn facts might reveal:
- Nearly $1 trillion is spent each year on means-tested welfare programs and this figure excludes Social Security and Medicare (two of the largest components of the federal budget).
- If $1 trillion were simply redistributed to the 46.2 million Americas living in relative poverty, that would be an annual direct payout of $21,739 per impoverished person each year.
- A family of three would find themselves placed well above the medium U.S. household income.
If the concern of the president, his party, and the reverberating media were truly assisting the least well off among us in the cause of “social progress,” that would easily be accomplished tomorrow by eliminating the modern welfare bureaucracy and simply handing half of the $1 trillion to the 46.2 million poor people in the country.
The remaining $500 billion could be used to refund a portion of the nearly 60 percent tax on income on the rich in many states. Additionally, tens of thousands of government employees who do not actually produce anything of material value could join the productive private labor force — and actually generate additional real wealth in support of our struggling economy.
None of this talk of communal responsibility is anything new. The same concepts were considered by other great societies.
Well before the publication of “The Wealth of Nations" and its theories, the practical realization across the Atlantic in this the most prosperous society in human history — Book two of Aristotle’s "Politics” offers a profound and simple defense of private property and the utility of individualism against the utopian and communal rhetoric of Plato’s "Republic."
Arguing against Plato’s suggestion that property ought to be held in common, Aristotle suggested that Plato’s scheme would produce a society in which “each citizen will have a thousand sons who will not be his sons individually but anybody will be equally the son of anybody, and will therefore be neglected by all alike. . . . For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it . . . everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill.”
As politicians implement policies pushing a more common ownership of property, people, and risk, these basic American “First Things” seem to be neglected. Even more fundamentally, the Great Philosopher (i.e., Aristotle) recognized that:
“Such [collectivist] legislation may have a specious appearance of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody's friend, especially when someone is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states . . . which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause — the wickedness of human nature. Indeed, we see that there is much more quarrelling among those who have all things in common . . . Again, we ought to reckon, not only the evils from which the citizens will be saved, but also the advantages which they will lose. The life which they are to lead appears to be quite impracticable.”
It is no wonder that what we call the greatest progressive moment in human history, the enlightenment, and our resulting constitutional system was predicated on the very fundamental assumption espoused in Locke’s “Second Treaties of Civil Government” that:
“The great and chief end, therefore, of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property [lives, liberties, and estates]. . . . The reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of their property; and the end why they choose and authorize a legislative, is, that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the members of the society, to limit the power, and moderate the dominion, of every part and member of the society: for since it can never be supposed to be the will of the society, that the legislative should have a power to destroy that which every one designs to secure, by entering into society, and for which the people submitted themselves to legislators of their own making; whenever the legislators endeavor to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence.”
It should be supremely disconcerting to “We the People” and to our media when our president (not even the branch of our national government authorized to control our purse strings) advocates an alien philosophy of how the national government’s coercive power should be used towards redistributing private property, and how someone’s concept of “fair share” should subject our private property to federal seizure against the will of our fellow American citizens. When private property is not protected it becomes objectively less valuable, its attainment less sought after, and its aggregate existence more scarce.
Practically speaking, a society which fails to protect private property inevitably discourages its production and incentivizes its seizure by political opportunism and faction. Philosophically speaking, such a society forfeits its legitimacy.
Such a society is regressive, unenlightened, and illegitimate.
Joseph E. Schmitz served as inspector general of the Dept. of Defense from 2002-2005 and is CEO of Joseph E. Schmitz, PLLC. Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.
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