It is so common to hear, “There ought to be a law.” In fact, the knee jerk response of legislators and citizens alike is almost always to invoke the government to fix things. Since we are too often too busy with our lives otherwise, it is easy to accept government solutions. But if we allow ourselves to be lulled into perpetual indifference, we will find that solutions we don’t like will be forced upon us and our Liberties lost. Many think that we are already there.
Strict adherence to the Constitution of the United States in its original form would limit the national government from infringing on our rights. Yet we have seen many decades of overreaching by Congress and the inaction of states to defend its citizens. There is a new awakening to the proper balance, but it comes after so much expansion of national law that we are now on our heels and reeling.
The fight over individual rights, and the power of states to protect them, began before the ink was dry on the hemp of the Constitution. But the modern era of bloated regulations and taxation began around 100 years ago during the worldwide expansion of socialism. We now have many generations that have grown up inured to the loss of rights and habituated to government solutions. So the first response to each lost liberty is to look for another law to protect us. Now we find that the balance of power is upside down and the leviathan national government disregards its limits with regularity.
Many people want to pass laws to re-establish state sovereignty. Many laws recommended by the Tenth Amendment Center would help to recover the proper balance of power. The advantage is to bring the weight of state government to bear in enforcement of our rights. But is another state law necessary?
There are two reasons why such a law might be counterproductive. And we have an example in the recent failure of one such law to pass. In California, advocates for Liberty tried to get the legalization of marijuana codified into law. That effort failed at the ballot box and the failure points out the inherent problem of a democratic society. Allowing popular will to trump the rule of constitutional law actually entrenches infringements of personal liberty.
There is no constitutional basis for prohibition of marijuana. If fact, such law is counter to every concept of liberty that anyone can imagine. No one can claim to protect freedom through prohibition. By attempting and failing to “legalize” marijuana, advocates have emboldened those who want to trample on the Constitution and everything it stands for.
I have heard similar sentiments for other positive law initiatives. What if they fail? Doesn’t that make it harder re-establish a lost liberty? In fact, it does. When the state aligns itself with the national government to restrict freedom, the endorsed infringement becomes a tyranny.
This brings us to the other downside of passing a state law to protect freedoms. We already possess freedom and only lose it voluntarily. Whether it be smoking pot in California, or protecting gun ownership in Montana, or nullifying national ID in Illinois, the ultimate responsibility for protecting freedom rests with each of us. If we are afraid or too lazy to fight for our rights, they will be taken from us. And relying on another law to do the job for us is just another excuse for inaction.
Samuel Adams wrote “If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.”
Make no mistake about it. It is fear that keeps us in line. But succumbing to fear keeps us isolated where unity would keep us safe. The DEA can bust one or two in a car or home, but it cannot fight a community or a state. The BATF can vilify a small group and arrest them or even kill them. But a population of hundreds, thousands or more can stop the tanks and SWAT teams.
Here in Illinois we know that our state legislators and governors have little interest in standing up to the national government. The game in Springfield is to work with Washington to funnel money back to the state. They have been bought and sold in this decades old game that continues to work against the people. And they continue to buy compliance in the populace with earmarks and handouts. We need our state government to become our ally once again.
To fight this abuse, we need numbers of people to demonstrate together their resolve. We need to convince our representatives in the General Assembly that our rights are more important than campaign contributions and re-elections. If we don’t get help from our state government, we must band together for mutual protection in the same manner as our founding fathers.
George Sutherland wrote, “The saddest epitaph that can be inscribed for a lost liberty is that its owners failed to stretch out a hand to save it while there was yet still time.” Let us not bear that regret. There is still time.
- There ought to be a law - February 15, 2011
- States Powers and Individual Rights: Deriving Governmental Powers - December 7, 2010