Friday, July 27, 2012

The Bill of Rights: Does It Really Grant Only "Negative Liberties"

(c) 2012 by Tom King

"That government is best which governs least"
- Henry David Thoreau
 It's wonderful how my liberal buddies descend to name-calling after only a few exchanges when they discover that you don't buy their ideas. I got into an argument yesterday with a guy who follows my blog (though why I don't know since I irritate him so much).

He objected to two things.  The first was my contention that people with money are the primary job creators (the investor-centric view).  He contends it's consumer demand that creates jobs (the worker-centric view).

While I agree that consumer demand does play a role in creating jobs, I'd qualify that by saying consumers only demand things when they can afford to buy them.  And they can't afford to buy things unless they have a job. It's kind of the chicken or the egg argument and there are two basic philosophies as to how to address the creation of jobs:
  • One says the government should take away money from the rich (and upper middle class), give (after taking its cut) the money to the poor and middle class (the poor mostly) and then the poor and middle class will spontaneously create demand for goods and services which will be a good thing for everybody.

  • The other philosophy says, investors watch trends in markets and invest money in meeting consumer demands as they happen, thus creating industry and jobs on the chance of being rewarded for that investment with obscene profits which will be a good thing for everybody.

The gaping hole in the first system is that it treats wealth as a magical bottomless pit that it can draw from without consequences.  Without the profit incentive (say if we go back to taxing 75-90% of income from the "wealthy" as we did during the failed war on poverty of the 60s) investors do not make risky investments - the kind that result in the creation of companies and jobs and new industry. And you get the malaise of the 70s where people just give up because no matter how hard they work, the tax man is going to take it away. I lived in the 70s. I was a school teacher and nearly everybody felt that way - so much so that the president made a speech telling us to stop feeling malaiseful and everything would be fine. It wasn't until Reagan lowered taxes and gave business an incentive to get off its duff and make some money that the malaise went away.

I did better under Reagan and I was working in the nonprofit sector. Yes wages didn't skyrocket during the Reagan recovery. That's true. But then neither did our cost of living. When you got a raise, it wasn't eaten up at the grocery store.  Wages didn't skyrocket under Carter either, but we also had double digit inflation that pretty much robbed us of what little we were making. I vividly remember the shortages under Nixon's price controls and Carter's gas lines. The Great Society didn't look so great anymore.

But my progressive buddies like to pretend those things never happened because they don't fit their ideology. In the 60s we were going after those richy rich dollars and had all kinds of government programs. Everything must have been just great!  We were giving away sooooo many food stamps after all.

Ever applied for food stamps? I did back then - a miserable, humiliating process. I'd rather get up and go to work every day and I did. At 5 am every weekday I road a bike five miles each way in the dark on rural roads dodging dogs and rattlesnakes to catch a converted school bus and ride 45 miles one way to work at miserable grinding work building a nuclear power plant (riding past liberal protesters at the gate every day who wanted to shut the project down). I clawed my way out of poverty, but I had to get off all those helpful government programs in order to do it. I couldn't keep up with the paperwork and work full time too. And as soon as I went to work I lost wll those helpful benefits anyway. I was fortunate to find a nonunion job working for Haliburton's Brown and Root. My wife was pregnant. B&R paid for my wife's childbirth even though I'd only been working for them for a month.

I believe in the private sector because I've seen the kind of charity delivered by both it and government. The welfare system seems designed to keep the poor in their place. When I escaped it, I was able to pull myself out of poverty. It was hard. I drove a cab 18 hours a day, worked 50 to 60 hours a week during the early 80s till my wife and I finally started our own business out of our home. We ran it till it failed (free government preschool forced us out of our niche market).  We worked 25 more years in the nonprofit sector, started 5 nonprofit organizations and worked our butts off just to stay afloat. We have no retirement, no pension, no savings. I plan to work till I drop over dead and hope in the years I have left to still get ahead by my own efforts.

And if I do finally take a risk that pays off, I don't want to see the president standing there on TV telling me somebody else made my success for me and demanding 75% of my income because I have "more than my share."

Government is historically the most greedy, oppressive, cruel and heartless organization man has ever come up with.  And don't tell me the church is worse, because the church at its worst was only ever a government in priestly robes and no true church at all.  Even the US government, arguably the most benign in history, has a stark record of committing a whole host of outrages. It has only been kept in check from even worse brutalities by the limitations imposed on it by the US Constitution. And my liberal friends want to remove those limitations and thrust more power into the hands of the government.  That's just insane to me!

My friend argued that Obama didn't make up the idea that the Bill of Rights was a charter of negative liberties - as though that made it a better idea somehow.  Of course Obama didn't make up the idea of "negative liberties". The man hasn't an original thought in his head. He's serving as a tool to other masters, a figurehead to be used in a massive power grab by progressives, his way paved by others. In Obama's case his success is truly not his own. Others did that for him. And I do not think I trust those people with my liberties and my liberties are positive.

I can see how the bill of rights could be considered negative liberties. They are negative liberties for the government.

  1. The government doesn't have the liberty to prevent me from speaking.
  2. The government doesn't have the liberty to prevent me from worshiping as I please.
  3. The government doesn't have the liberty to take away my means to defend myself and my home.
  4. The government doesn't have the liberty to keep me from meetin where I please and with whom I wish.
  5. The government doesn't have the liberty to prevent me from writing and publishing what I wish. 
  6. The government doesn't have the liberty to take away my life or liberty without due process.
In that respect I agree, they are "negative" liberties.  So what's Obama's point?  Is he looking for a bill of rights outlining the government's rights. What a horror that would be!
CS Lewis memorably said this and it's worth resaying, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."


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