Friday, 24 May 2024

    Tyranny or Liberty? by Peter O’Brien

    A really smart friend of mine once noted, while speaking of the DOD: “You need to remember that we don’t do why!”
    Joe’s point was that there is, in all government bureaucracies, a resistance to anyone trying to get to the primary reason that would explain actions, because in the end bureaucracies are really about power, not reason (and certainly not liberty). That’s why bureaucracies often talk about efficiencies but avoid discussing long-term outcomes.
    Take the simple question: Why two Senators from each state? What did the Founding Fathers really want? If you asked some Congressmen and at least a few Senators, it would seem you get the answer: set up an efficient government – but they got it wrong.
    The Congressmen, including apparently 40 Democratic Congressmen, would be wrong, in the most fundamental sense. The Founders didn’t want democracy for the sake of democracy; they certainly didn’t want a complex, deliberative government because they liked debate for the sake of debate.
    In fact, their goal is stated quite well in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and well explained in the Federalist papers. It can be reduced to a few phrases right out of the Constitution: justice, tranquility, general welfare, liberty.
    What were they protecting? The Declaration of Independence tells us: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
    None of the Founders viewed their goal to be make an efficient government (nor was the goal a certain economic standard of living).
    A government with two legislatures with different allegiances, with independent courts, with an independent executive – isn’t meant to be efficient or effective. We know – as the Founding Fathers knew – that the most efficient and effective government is a dictatorship; ask President Xi of China. Efficient and effective government was never a goal of the founders nor is it the goal of anyone who really prizes liberty and the rule of law.
    In fact, just the opposite. Our system of government was designed to deliberately create conflict between the various elements: the executive vs the judicial vs the legislative. And within the legislative: the Senate – representing the interests of the states, versus the House – representing the people directly.
    Giving each state equal representation in the Senate is a means to ensure the legislature doesn’t become a forum of simply popular support. There is obvious stress: many states of lessor populations versus the few with larger populations. This will slow things down, this will make it necessary to deliberate, to compromise, to sometimes fail to get anything done. Because it’s better to do nothing than to pass bad laws, laws that hurt innocents, laws that can be misused by the bureaucracy, laws that erode our rights.
    Popular movements can come and go in a rush; they can lead to calls for immediate action. But immediate action is, as has been proved too many times, often poorly thought out. The record of bad legislation in the US is long and tedious. Most of it was passed in a hurry, some even “before we had a chance to read it…”
    A system that endows the simple majority with that power leads to a particular danger, one that concerned the Founders as much as dictatorships: Tyranny of the majority. Our system of government must protect against both.
    Now we have a host of folks calling for reworking the Senate. In the once important magazine that included Emerson, Longfellow, Stowe and Lowell among its early writers (but now a seeming mouthpiece for the whackiest, Progressive, neo-Marxist concepts) we can read a proposal to make the Senate reflect popular votes and effectively negates not only the concept of state’s rights, it would dangerously undermine the protections built into the Constitution to defend against tyranny of the majority.
    This nation was founded to provide liberty, and justice; to ensure we retain our unalienable rights. That will never be easy. It requires deliberation, it requires recognizing that sometimes movement – when necessary – must be slow and cautious; so that in a rush to do what we think is right we don’t end up doing something that is in fact wrong. That’s the very point of the Senate as now constructed. Surely these Congressmen understand this?
    Or perhaps they understand, and don’t like the answer; perhaps they prefer Tyranny.