Is This Legit?

As a citizen, a veteran, and someone who has been interested in how our Republic is governed for my whole life, I have to ask a hard question. Is government, in general, losing its legitimacy in the USA?

Legitimacy is about trust. As a people, we trust that, overall, the government is acting in our best interest. Trust is hard to win and easy to lose.

Responsible leaders know the importance of maintaining legitimacy. Government by its nature is force, and when people see force at work in all its ugliness they need to know, at a gut level, that it is being used for good things.   If it is used for bad things it gets very hard for the average, decent person to tolerate government. People refuse. Taxes don’t get paid. Sacred cows get gored. Responsible leaders are supposed to speak up when going-along to-get-along goes too far and leads to a lack of trust.

But are they? The key to legitimate government in America should still be about protecting individual rights, free markets and a limited government. It’s these qualities that made America worth living in. This country grew into an economic and military giant because they lead to prosperity. If legitimacy is now based on government buying people off, as the cynical would say, we are certainly headed for a crash. “You can’t buy permanent friends with free candy.”

Individual rights are now considered secondary to other needs. Consider the Federal level alone. Instead of free speech, we have “free speech zones.”   Political competition is restricted by laws that embed only two political parties in power. Congress wrote a law that forces everyone to buy medical insurance. President Bush actually advocated eliminating Habeas Corpus.   President Obama proposed eliminating ammunition for the most popular type of rifle in private hands. The SCOTUS ruled way back in 1942 that the Federal government can control what a person legally makes, mines, or grows on his own property for his own use, even if no one else is involved. In order to use commercial travel, a person must get permission from the DHS first or they will not be allowed to go, no judge, jury or public evidence involved.   The TSA routinely ignores the Fourth Amendment. Intelligence agencies are spying on us, and they have publicly apologized to lying about that in sworn testimony to Congress. Police departments can legally use civil confiscation to take property without charges or even evidence of guilt. When did we become a country where our rights are protected by the Constitution, but only if we don’t actually want to use them?

America is the land of the managed market. A free market is based on voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. The tax code, the creation of our dollars, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the minimum wage, bank and corporate bailouts, business regulation, government control of education, utility and infrastructure monopolies, licenses, permits, zoning, affirmative action, agricultural subsidies, and the massive government bureaucracy all depend on the idea some citizens should have privileges over other citizens in the law. Besides being unjust, this idea makes for higher costs, less choice and poorer quality. Today, the invisible hand of the free market has been replaced by a very visible thumb on the market scales. As the Roman Senator Tacitus said, “The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state.”

Finally, it is hard to claim our government is limited in its power when both Presidents Bush and Obama have assassinated U.S. citizens abroad without a trial or even presentation of evidence. Our government actually authorized torture. This is such nonsense since they can no more authorize torture than they can authorize rape or slavery. No higher functionary in government, no matter how guilty, is going to jail.

These are more than ugly trends. They are a bad way to govern. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, they make people think “Why should I put up with this?”

When they finally answer that they won’t, that is when the real problems begin.

Pete Blome is a retired military officer, Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party, and At-Large Representative of the Libertarian Party of Florida

Individuals, Not Government, Keep U.S. Strong

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 blomep@cox.net)