America is strong not because of its military or economy, but because of its way of life.
Our way of life is founded on the individual. What has made this country powerful is the protection of individual rights. Without it, there would be no general creation of wealth, fewer fruits from individual initiative, and neither safety nor satisfaction in daily life. The Bill of Rights, private property, ability to freely contract and limits to government power are as much about keeping our country strong as they are letting people pursue their own brand of happiness.
But I cannot help seeing changes in the nature of our government that threaten this wonderful way of life we enjoy.
Consider a short sample of how we live today.
Our President has been opening the mail, tapping phones and emails, collecting business information and even getting library book records using National Security Letters, all done without any court warrants. The victims of these searches have been warned that if they say anything to anyone that they have been searched, they are liable to imprisonment. National security Letters have been used hundreds of thousands of times.
All international travel by US citizens must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security before a carrier can let you on board. All travelers to the USA must also be pre-approved and fingerprinted upon entry.
The domestic train system, AMTRACK, recently started a program of random searches of passengers, both their person and their baggage.
Every private financial transaction of every American citizen greater than $5000 must be reported to the Department of Homeland Security. Many banks have voluntarily reduced the reporting amount to $2500.
Since 1990 all Presidents have issued more than a thousand amendments to law in the form of “signing statements: in which they say which part of the law they will follow and which part they will not. Congress and the Supreme Court make no challenge.
Supreme Court Justice Scalia said he considered it wrong for the judiciary to outlaw torture of non US citizens outside areas of the USA. In the case of Kelo vs New London Connecticut the court gave approval to a local government to confiscate the land of homeowners so the government could sell it to a private business and collect more taxes.
The Military Tribunals Acts of 2006 created two systems of American justice; one that has the protection of the Bill of Rights, and the other reserved for people charged as “illegal combatants.” Illegal combatants can be executed on hearsay evidence or evidence gained from torture. They may never get to choose their own lawyer, cross examine their accuser, or be allowed to see the evidence itself if it is too sensitive. Even if a defendant is found innocent under this unjust system, the ex-defendant may be held in prison indefinitely anyway.
Our government openly admits it conducted rendition flights of prisoners from the USA to locations where we have maintained secret prisons and torture is used.
American citizens have been held without charges for months, and in one case for years, in direct violation of the concept of habeus corpus. Former Attorney General Gonzales actually said to the Senate that the Constitution does not guarantee habeus corpus.
Our nation is currently fighting its fourth undeclared war. Officially, the war has claimed at least 6000 American lives and cost at least one trillion dollars.
The expense has been funded by borrowing from overseas and printing money. That is leading to inflation. Already pennies and nickels are worth more for their metal content than their face value. It has even become a felony to leave this country with more than a handful of either coin in your pocket or to melt them down.
It is taken for granted that taxation should be used to force social policy. It is taken for granted that government can favor one business or person over another.
Finally, in the face of one of the worst economic downturn in decades, most candidates continue to bribe voters with their own money by talking about expanding federal health care, and bailing banks and homeowners out of their mortgages.
All of this has not made the USA, or the individual citizen, stronger. It has merely led to greater dependency on government and infringed liberties. In the misguided pursuit of quick fixes our leaders are turning us into the very thing we used to despise.
It is foolish to continue down this path. The way to stop it is by a commitment to maintain individual rights.
Peter J. Blome
(Peter J. Blome is a retired military officer and Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Okaloosa County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)