2. Why a militia in these modern times?
The Michigan Militia Corps was formed in response to a perceived growth in indifference toward the Constitution of the United States on the part of elected officials. Statutes passed by Congress often have very little or no connection to the original powers delegated to Congress by the Constitution, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of regulations simply promulgated by federal agencies with no congressional oversight whatsoever. A federal agency simply needs to announce that it has created a new regulation, and it goes into effect automatically. It takes years to go through the legal system to even challenge a questionable regulation. Today's American Citizen must be responsible for knowing millions of lines of federal code, rules, and regulations. Not only is this extremely intrusive on the individual's ability to live a life reasonably free of governmental interference, but it is fast creating a police state where every facet of life is regulated by government.
To better present our grievences with governmental growth, the following is an excerpt from Doug Fiedor's "State of the Union" essay. It is copyrighted in 1998 and is used with permission.
But we should care. There was a time, before about 1940, when nearly every American citizen knew exactly what Rule of Law indicated. And, they often demanded strict enforcement. You should be very familiar with the term, too. It pertains to something very precious to you: Your freedom. And today, we’re desperately in need of a resurgence in good old fashioned freedom from government restraints.
One old political dictionary defines Rule of Law as "an Anglo-American concept that emphasizes the supremacy of the law and restricts the discretionary power of public officials. The Rule of Law particularly stresses the protection of individual rights from the arbitrary interference of officials." In other words, when applied correctly, it protects your personal freedom. Not the group rights the liberals and establishment media try to push, but our individual rights and liberties.
In The Road to Serfdom, Professor of Economics and Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek says of the Rule of Law: ". . . this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand -- rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge."
Now do you see why we need to know more about the Rule of Law? Because it restricts the discretionary power of public officials. And yes, public officials are supposed to be controlled by something other than the vote. It is the what that is supposed to limit the actions of public officials that has become foggy in the minds of many of today’s American citizens. Luckily, the basics are quick and easy to learn.
Years ago, we used to say that we have "a government of law and not of men." Back then, we expected our elected officials and bureaucrats to stay within the boundaries set down in the law. That is, Congress was not expected to pass unconstitutional laws, the President and the Courts were expected to strictly enforce the Bill of Rights, and your state and local officials would do only those things outlined by your state constitution and/or city charter.
That is what our grandparents expected. The rights and liberties of the individual citizen were supposed to be protected by government. But, that was years ago. This is now. And things have changed.
Today, there are so many things described as "rights" that the meaning of the word has been totally corrupted. A right is something which applies to everyone equally, like freedom of speech and religion. The word "permission" should be used when the activity is available to only a selected few -- such as licensing a special group, collecting welfare, etc. -- and can be revoked.
Among the protections citizens realize when they demand strict interpretation of the Rule of Law is the American concept of freedom. We all remember the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Jefferson took a little editorial liberty with the phrase "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Consequently, if we modern Americans are to fully understand our own personal rights and liberties, this requires a little explanation.
Back in the days of the Founding Fathers, every family was said to have two well studied books in their homes. The most important best seller around 1775, of course, was The Bible. The second best seller in the Colonies was Blackstone’s Commentaries on The Law, then a new three volume set on English common law.
For the Founding Fathers, Blackstone’s Commentaries was the law book of the day. Of course, the writings of John Locke and others were freely quoted too. But, they were theory. Blackstone’s was an accurately written description of the Law. Since then, it has been used in every English speaking law school in the world. Even today, a well read copy of Blackstone’s Commentaries can be found in any American law library.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin all studied Blackstone’s Commentaries at length, as did all of the Founders. That is very evident in their writings. They quote and paraphrase the text extensively.
So, it is no surprise that the phrase written by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, is derived from Chapter One of Book One of Blackstone’s, titled Absolute Rights of Individuals. Blackstone describes the absolute rights of individuals as being our right to life, liberty and property. Jefferson took the editorial liberty of changing "property" to "pursuit of happiness," knowing full well that all Colonial Americans would understand exactly what was meant.
It is us, today’s Americans, who seem to have a problem with that meaning. We Americans have lost the concept of true freedom because we no longer know exactly what our rights are. In today’s United States, the word "rights" has been corrupted so completely that few Americans any longer know the difference between procedural rights, civil rights and our unalienable rights and liberties. However, the basics can be learned in less than a minute, so let’s examine a little of Blackstone’s original text.
Sir William Blackstone defines our absolute rights as "those which are so in their primary and strictest sense; such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is entitled to enjoy, whether out of society or in it." These rights have also been called natural rights by some.
Blackstone then breaks these rights down into three basic categories:
Life -- The Right of Personal Security: "This right consists of a person’s legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health and his reputation." Herein can also be found your right of self defense. Liberty -- The Right of Personal Liberty: "This consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, of moving one’s person to whatever place one’s own inclination may direct, without imprisonment or restraint, unless by course of law." We find this right protected, to a limited extent, within the body of our Constitution, and further guaranteed within the Bill of Rights. Property -- The Right of Private Property: "This is the third absolute right, and consists in the free use, enjoyment and disposal by a man of all his acquisitions, without any control or diminution, save only by the laws of the land."Our Founding Fathers called these absolute rights unalienable -- incapable of being given up, taken away, or transferred to another. In Jefferson’s first draft of The Declaration of Independence, the word was conventionally spelled inalienable. However, the newspaper editor among them, Benjamin Franklin, thought unalienable sounded stronger. And, as they say, the rest is history. Thus, the protection of Life, Liberty and Property -- our natural, absolute and unalienable rights -- became the underlying reason our country was formed.
There is, of course, a caveat here: As members of society, we are required to respect these rights in all others. Therefore, the most important reason we empower governments to make and enforce laws is to insure that every person respects these rights of other Americans.
The Federal Government is, of course, mandated to both respect and protect these rights for all American citizens. In fact, the Founding Fathers intended that the Federal Government have no power to violate any of the individual rights, only to protect them. Towards this end, the body of our Constitution was carefully crafted by the Founding Fathers to allow the central government only certain enumerated powers. Although it may not seem like it today -- with our hundreds of thousands of pages of imposing laws, rules and regulations -- the powers of the federal government were intended to be few, and the freedoms of citizens were contemplated to be many.
The basic reasons our federal government was formed can be found outlined in the Preamble to our Constitution, which reads in part:
". . . to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . ."
In other words, the expressed intent of forming a central government was to insure a free, peaceful country in which to live, work and raise a family.
Notice anything in the Preamble about regulating We the People into submission? Of course not! Nor will you find anything within the body of the Constitution. Furthermore, judging by the extensive writings of the authors of our Constitution, that type of authority was expressly forbidden to the Federal Government. It is hard to believe today, but all policing powers (except for very few, such as treason, piracy and counterfeiting) were intended to be left to the states.
It was the Federal Government’s duty, then, to not violate the unalienable and Constitutional rights of the citizens. And, generally speaking, it was the duty of the States to protect these rights. But, as we said above, that was then, and this is now. Yet, there have been no changes to the Constitution altering that arrangement. So, the changes must have came about by other means.
Still today, the Rule of Law demands strict obedience of our United States Constitution by all public officials. Should we be surprised, then, that many of today’s public officials find that term embarrassing, and even repulsive?
It is because we Americans no longer study these most basic tenants of human rights that we are losing them. After all, how may we demand our individual rights be protected if we no longer know exactly what they are? Consequently, we have developed a collectivist society. A society in which group rights supersede individual rights. A society in which the Marxist theory of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is usurping the original American ideal of individual productivity and individual responsibility.
The idea of group rights, group protections, and special permissions for certain groups, is repugnant to the ideals set down in our Constitution. The American ideal professes equal rights and liberties for all, never special rights for any. But, along with equal rights come equal responsibilities. And, accepting responsibility for ones own actions is, in a nutshell, exactly what the liberals among us are loath to accept.
Now that you have a general idea of the basic intent of the Founding Fathers, we can move on to the methods used by the bureaucracy to supplant our "unalienable" and Constitutional rights. At this point, it is suggested that you actually read our United States Constitution and take the time to become especially familiar with Sections 8 through 10 of Article I, and the Bill of Rights.
For the last sixty-five years, our federal government has continually exhibited two very important predispositions: These are a strong propensity towards steady growth, and the accumulation and centralization of political power.
Of course, all of this growth and accumulation of power in Washington comes from one source: We the People. This is because, to put it simply, here in the United States all power legally originates with the people. Put another way; government cannot take a right away from us unless We the People relinquish it.
Years ago, we called the ability to do as we wished "freedom." And, back then, about the only caveat on our freedom was that we did not bother others with our actions. But about eighty-five years ago, this began changing. That is, starting about 1913, the federal government began to centralize political power and hence, control over the people.
The Founding Fathers designed a central government with authority to conduct only eighteen basic functions. Their expressed intent was that any powers not specifically delegated to the central government by the Constitution were deliberately left to the states in general, and to the people in particular. The Founders knew very well that every law, rule, and regulation passed by the central government would decrease the rights and liberties of the people -- your personal freedom. Therefore, they were very careful to give the national government only those powers necessary for the country to function effectively as a unit.
That has all changed. Today, freedom in these United States is more or less a relative thing. Today's freedoms include only those actions Congress and the regulatory bureaucracies wish to allow to the people. That is, an American citizen is allowed to do something only until Congress, or one of the administration's regulatory agencies, decides to forbid it. Exactly how most of this happened will be addressed later.
And what of those eighteen powers given to the federal government by our Constitution? One, the regulation of money, has been totally abdicated to a semi-private corporation known as the Federal Reserve System. And, two others -- the protection of our borders and the proper operation of the city of Washington, D.C. -- have become utter failures.
George Mason University Professor of Economics Walter Williams writes that these eighteen duties mandated to the federal government by our Constitution would account for approximately one-third of the federal budget. The other two-thirds of the federal budget is, therefore, "extra-Constitutional" spending. In other words, two-thirds of the hard earned money we are forced to send to Washington every year is spent by the federal government with no Constitutional authority.
So too with many laws passed by Congress. Today's Congress legislates on even the most basic of human functions. One day it was how fast we will be allowed to drive our automobiles. Another day it was what we will be allowed to view on television. On yet another day it was what we would be allowed to transmit over our telephone or via computer networks, and send though the mails. Most recently, it's regulating how much water each personal toilet may use per flush and how senior citizens may spend their own personal money for medical care. Among the most humorous, though, was a discussion of how toilet paper was to be manufactured and marketed.
The point is that if certain members of today's Congress can contemplate something affecting human existence, chances are quite good that they will also attempt to regulate it. Complicating the problem is the fact that the federal regulatory agencies are now allowed to pass laws (regulations) on their own volition. Worse yet, these unelected federal bureaucrats are now even levying taxes on the American public, with no comment from Congress.
"How can they do that?" seems to be a popular question nowadays. Which should be stated more correctly as, where did they find the authority to legislate on that subject? Congress makes up their own authority as they go along, is the only completely correct answer. Congress invents its own authority. And now, so do the regulatory agencies.
Often, Congress starts by legislating on a matter that might actually be useful and desirable, but just borders on being outside the authority given by the Constitution -- like welfare, for instance. If the people do not complain too loudly, and the courts do not immediately knock it down, they then carry it on ad nauseam. And, as in the case of welfare, they tend to continue adding to the law every year, until its original intent is utterly corrupted, and the whole system becomes a total affront to our Constitution.
Contrary to popular belief by many in Washington, the term "Federalism" does not mean that the federal government is to control everything. The states were intended to have most policing powers, the central government very few. Were the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution enforced with the vigor of the First, this situation would be rectified immediately. Instead, our country is infected by a quagmire of many thousands of often conflicting federal laws, rules and regulations.
It is also disturbing that there are so many volumes of ever-changing federal law that no single person can ever learn it all. On top of that, there are two-hundred and some thick books of poorly written regulations, most of which also come with severe civil and criminal penalties. These regulations are enforced by ninety-some federal agencies, all of which are continually working on hundreds of new rules and regulations.
In fact, unelected federal bureaucrats now write so much law that, on average, it totals 70,000 pages of small print in the Federal Register annually. And, because ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense, this is law that all Americans are required to know and obey. Clearly, the federal regulatory bureaucracy is out of hand.
Worse, many federal regulatory agencies use a recently invented power called the "General Duty clause." This allows regulators to invent a regulation, on the fly, when they come upon a specific circumstance that they do not have a standard regulation to fit. In other words, citizens can no longer only rely on the written law. Americans must also be able to read the minds of the regulators in order to conform to federal regulations. Obviously, the federal government has gone far afield from the rule of law on which this country was founded. Today's federal government is more akin to regulatory despotism.
This is further complicated by the diabolical attitude of those entrusted with enforcing the law. For instance, during Attorney General Janet Reno's Senate confirmation hearings, she was heard agreeing with (then committee chairman) Senator Joseph Biden that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." In other words, she (or Biden) does not need to personally know all the laws (no single person can), but we citizens can be imprisoned if we do not obey them all.
And that is exactly the problem in a nutshell.
The analogy is that of a one way street down that slippery slope of justice; a road which contains many turns of unexpected consequences, and eventually leads down to the state of tyranny. For, when the volume of law enacted by government far exceeds the ability of the governed to comprehend, there is, in effect, no law. The unexpected consequence, then, is selective tyranny.
In The Federalist Papers No. 62 James Madison admonishes:
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?"Today's federal government is quite obviously not the government intended by our Founding Fathers...