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Fighting for freedom while losing our freedom
By Alan Caruba
There is a terrible irony that Americans are getting ready to liberate Iraqis from the despotic control of Saddam Hussein at the same time we continue to lose many of the freedoms we take for granted.
"We in America have traded individual liberty piecemeal for dependence on government, without revolution, without reflections, often without systemic understanding."
For a very long time, conservatives in America have been sounding the alarms about the gradual loss of individual freedom. The process began in the 1930s with the implementation of the income tax and proceeded following World War II as the Supreme Court, Congress and the Executive Branch slowly eviscerated the Constitution. The warnings fell on deaf ears for the most part, but now with the rise of conservative talk radio and television personalities, Americans are slowly becoming aware of what they have lost. In my view, it may be too late.
This is made abundantly clear in Dependent On DC: The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives on Ordinary Americans; a densely packed book by Charlotte A. Twight ($17.95, Palgrave/Macmillan) that tracks the history of lost freedoms. It requires some real intellectual effort to make one's way through this book and it is worth it. It will, however, leave you feeling depressed and it should.
Americans have ceded the federal government the right to demand and know everything about our lives and to have total control over our lives, from birth to death. In the process, it takes our earnings before we can make individual decisions about how to invest, save or spend it.
"If we are to hope for a future blessed with civil liberty, private property rights, free markets, and personal autonomy, it is imperative that we understand what has happened and how it has happened," writes Twight, a professor of economics at Boise State University, who also holds a degree in law.
As she details, the current system of taxation is so vast no one can possibly know its contents. Federal rules and regulations reach into every aspect of our lives, virtually making every one of us liable to commit a criminal act without ever knowing it. "In 2000, some 4,699 federal rules and regulations were under consideration and the Federal Register contained 74,258 pages of proposed and final rules and regulations for that year alone."
"The Social Security Act requires Americans to exchange dependence on savings and family in old age for dependence on government " In the process, it deprives many people of an effective means to provide for their old age and for their survivors. Likewise, the 1958 National Defense Education Act and the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act gave the federal government total control over the education systems in every state, determining the content of what children learn. Medicare provided an avenue to increase federal control over the nation's health care systems.
Finally, "a growing array of linked federal electronic databases key to Social Security numbers allowed ever increasing government violation of American's personal privacy" including our personal medical records.
A huge federal bureaucracy can be seen in the fifty titles of the U.S. Code that requires approximately eight linear feet of law library shelf space; the U.S. Code Annotated occupies approximately thirty-three feet; and the Code of Federal Regulations requires an additional twenty feet of space. As Twight bluntly states, "Discretionary federal government power to disrupt the lives of law-abiding individuals is now pandemic."
In effect, the profusion of laws has "largely destroyed the rule of law" because no one can know what laws and regulations to obey and which are unknowingly being transgressed. Moreover, most of the laws and regulations can be interpreted in any fashion a bureaucrat interprets them.
It is against the law to not provide the government the information it seeks in order to control any aspect of your life. This is not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. Indeed, it is the exact opposite. The Constitution deliberately makes the process of changing its broad protections a difficult process, but dictates of the Supreme Court have circumvented the amendment process and have "reinterpreted" Constitutional provisions such as its interstate commerce clause and the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
What Americans today accept as a system that always existed did not exist prior to the second half of the last century. It is socialism, not capitalism. It denies individuals the right to participate in making critical decisions about what their children are taught in local schools, what kind of medical treatments they can secure, what they can do with their own money as regards investments and savings. Prior to World War II, the US government was not the monolith it has become.
It is a testimony to the American spirit that we stand ready to fight for freedom in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. In countless ways, however, Americans are not free as the framers of the Constitution intended them to be. We must mount a sustained effort to reverse the process and return our original, intended freedoms to us.
Alan Caruba writes "Warning Signs", a weekly column posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. In February, Merril Press will publish a collection of his most recent columns. © Alan Caruba, 2003
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