Losing Liberty

By Alan Caruba

It’s something I began to notice imperceptibly. While talking with colleagues who write commentaries that advocate conservative ideals, many speak of the likelihood of finding their names on “no-fly lists” or incurring other kinds of problems resulting from criticizing the government. You don’t have to be paranoid these days to worry about such things.

In recent weeks I have read several books that address the loss of liberties, of freedoms we all assume are protected by the Bill of Rights. The low rumble of potential government repression has become more audible of late. To put it bluntly, a lot of reasonably intelligent people are worried about President George W. Bush and what plans he has for the next four years. And beyond.

“The federal government is not above the rule of law,” writes Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, in his book, Constitutional Chaos. He then adds, “There are no cases in American history in which our courts have sanctioned punishment before trial as ‘prevention’ against future crimes,” noting that only out-going Attorney General John Ashcroft “has ever claimed that power with a straight face.”

In his book, Good to be King, Michael Badnarik, an expert on the Constitution, notes: “Since March 9, 1933, the United States has been in a state of declared national emergency. In fact, there are now in effect four presidentially-proclaimed states of national emergency: In addition to the national emergency declared by President Roosevelt in 1933 there is also the national emergency proclaimed by President Truman on December 16, 1950, during the Korean conflict, and the states of national emergency declared by President Nixon on March 23, 1970, and August 15, 1971.

“These proclamations give force to 470 provisions of Federal law,” writes Badnarik. “Under the powers delegated by these statutes, the President may: seize property, organize and control the means of production; seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transportation and communication; regulate the operation of private enterprise; restrict travel; and in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens.”

Badnarik says these proclamations and executive orders have reduced the Constitution to being “essentially a dead letter.” Nowhere in the Constitution are such presidential powers authorized.

Which brings us to the Patriot Act, passed without a single member of Congress even having had the opportunity to read it. It eviscerates the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, granting the government to spy on anyone without a warrant, a so-called “sneak and peek” investigation. The government has already asserted the right to seize, jail, and hold incommunicado or deport anyone deemed to be a terrorist or potential threat to the nation. But you’re not a terrorist, you say? Sacrifice this rule of law for a real terrorist and you sacrifice it for yourself as well.

The recent budget authorization had a provision in its 600 pages that would have permitted members of Congress to have a look at your tax returns. When that was discovered, Congress beat a hasty retreat from that invasion of your privacy. What else was in that piece of legislation?

What else is in The Federal Register that lists all federal regulations now in effect? Do you have time to read its 60,000 to 80,000 pages? Neither do I. Nor can anyone inside the Internal Revenue Service accurately and confidently interpret the insane matrix of tax laws that exist. My late father was a CPA and spent a lifetime trying to figure them out.

Though Social Security is supposed to be a voluntary program, it is not. Nor is acquiring a license if you want to drive. Now both these requirements will be turned into a national identity system. Or didn’t you read the legislation that recently “reformed” our intelligence agencies?

And while the Second Amendment clearly states you have a right to own a gun, which implies the right to carry one, just try purchasing or carrying one without running into any one of the 20,000 laws that restrict this fundamental Constitutional empowerment.

As we contemplate a government whose powers increasingly exceed those authorized by the Constitution, we should remind ourselves of events such as the destruction of the Waco, Texas, compound and a group of people called the Branch Dividians. Suspected of some minor firearms infringement, the government—yours and mine—managed to kill over ninety men, women and children for exercising their Constitutional rights. No one in government paid a price for that horrendous destruction of life. A few years later, a child that had survived an escape from Communist Cuba was seized by the government and returned. Isn’t the United States supposed to be a refuge from such tyranny? Apparently not.

Not once since World War II has Congress, as required by the Constitution, issued a Declaration of War. This nation has been taken into war ever since without legal authorization. This transfers one of the most important functions of our elected representatives to the office of the President. And it does so without the sanction of the Constitution.

If you ever read The Communist Manifesto devised by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, you would discover that its first two elements are abolition of private property and a heavy progressive income tax. Right now, Congress has authorized millions in taxpayer dollars to permit—indeed, encourage—federal and state governments to purchase huge amounts of land. Why? In State after State citizens are told that vast tracts of land must be either owned outright or subjected to governmental or non-governmental “councils,” in effect depriving and destroying private property rights. As for an income tax, we have that in spades. And the waste that follows is beyond imagination.

The last item on the Manifesto’s list is government control of education. No one can explain to me why there is a Department of Education or any federal control of education. This is another usurpation of power that you will not find in the Constitution, but it is absolutely essential to the indoctrination of children who must pass through what is now a national, not local, system of education.

And finally, the one thing that would really contribute to national security, stopping the flow of illegal immigration, was cut from the recent intelligence reform bill. Why? Why has this Achilles heel of national security been ignored since 9-11?

 I could go on, but the point of these ruminations is that we are losing rights we think we possess, and by the time we get around to protesting what’s going on in the name of protecting the environment or protecting the homeland or protecting the children, there will be nothing to protect you against an all-powerful government that will, in effect, own you. And then you will know what it was like to live in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or any other tyranny. But it will be too late.

Alan Caruba writes “Warning Signs,” a weekly commentary posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center (www.anxietycenter.com).

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