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The Federal Government vs. Liberty

National IDs, stem cell research funding, and medical marijuana bans are just the latest outrages.

by James Leroy Wilson
June 9, 2005

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The Federal Government vs. Liberty

Recent outrages in Washington DC indicate that the United States government is beginning to unravel. The most powerful nation on earth can not help but be the most corrupt nation on earth. And this corruption is far deeper than petty graft. The "collective mind" in Washington has been corrupted. Not just in the West Wing and the corridors of the Pentagon, where our war in Iraq and other diplomatic fiascos in no way reflect the national interest, but also in the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court.

This is not new. But even during the awful years of the Cold War, one could say that aside from the draft (which is admittedly a pretty big "aside"), American society was far freer than it is now. Where were the "mandatory minimum" sentences? The drug tests? The speech codes on campus, or "sexual harassment" laws? How many were in federal prison for crimes that the Constitution left for the states to define and punish? How many were in federal prison even though they committed no crimes at all? Where were the security searches at airports? In how many places were you forced to show your driver's license and give out your Social Security number? How much of a political campaign was spent fundraising and trying to comply/get around onerous campaign finance laws? How many Americans saw their property taken from them because of a DEA raid? How many American military personnel were implicated in torture scandals? What was the size of the budget deficit?

Yes, we do have greater "freedom" today in terms of consumer choice, and more sources of information (if we choose to use them). But, as the USA slowly reasserted its power in the early 1980's, and then became the "world's only superpower" after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the American people became less and less free. The War on Drugs was stepped up, as was the nationalization of criminal law. Freedom of speech was assaulted in the guise of Campaign Finance Reform What was said on the workplace or the radio become subject to frivolous lawsuits and arbitrary fines. Ruby Ridge, Waco, Elian Gonzalez became symbols of unaccountable and arbitrary brute government force without regard to law or morality.

Since Sept 11, 2001, the insane assault on our freedoms stepped up. The PATRIOT Act granted the federal government unprecedented wiretapping and other surveillance powers - not just for potential terrorism but for all "suspicious" and potentially criminal activity. Our "War on Terror" has led to one dubious war (Afghanistan) and one blatantly illegal and unjust war (Iraq). Government and government debt, whose burdens had been falling relative to the size of the economy, rebounded - and no one in Washington seems to care.

In this environment, the outrages of the past few weeks do not come as a surprise. First came the REAL ID act, which will make into law what just five years ago supposedly loony conspiracy theorists were warning against: an "uniform" national ID card supposedly designed to weed out illegal immigrants and potential terrorists. The effect is opposite: if everyone is forced to use such a card to travel from one place or another, then everyone is a potential illegal immigrant who must "prove" their innocence by showing the ID. This is the old, totalitarian "Your papers, please" and opens up the possibility that the government could monitor our every move. If we are being watched, we are not free.

Then came the House of Representatives' vote to have the federal government subsidize stem cell research. How much contempt for the pro-life taxpayer can there be? This isn't about whether such research, in itself, should be legal, but rather whether the taxpayers should be forced to pay for it, rather than pay for something else, or not pay for anything at all. It is like the "pro-choice" hypocrisy which demands that abortions should not just be legal, but also publicly funded. Many Republicans defected from the party line and voted for this arrogant and insulting piece of legislation.

Lastly, there was Monday's Gonzales v. Raich Supreme Court decision, which held that the Commerce and "necessary and proper" clauses of Article I, section 8 of the Constitution permit the federal government to prosecute individuals who grow and consume, for medicinal purposes, their own marijuana on their own property, even when state laws permit such activity. If the Supreme Court's reasoning is correct, then the Bill of Rights is meaningless, and the Constitution is designed for unlimited, not limited government. Since any activity leads to a chain of events that ultimately affects interstate commerce, Congress now has the authority, thanks to the Supreme Court's interpretation, to legislate on anything and everything.

These outrages emanating from Washington prove that there is a poison in America. A society in which the national government has so much power over our lives is not healthy or stable. The D.C. way is to fight another war, spend on another pork project or entitlement, make more laws, and prosecute. The more it pretends to fix things, the more unfree and unstable our society becomes. While the USA has always failed to live up to its moral standards and ideals, I do not believe there has ever been such bipartisan, near-unanimous contempt in Washington for traditional American values like individual rights and limited government as today.

The very foundations of a stable and free society are under attack. Not by terrorists or immigrants or homosexuals or drug users. Not by the liberal media, Hollywood, or the Ivory Tower. The attacks on civilization are coming instead by the very people we elected to office, Democrat and Republican.

And they get re-elected, time after time. It's almost as if the American people want to damn their own country to hell.

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