Monday, July 02, 2007

Ron Paul encourages distrust of political power.

Here's some back-catalog wisdom from Ron Paul, via his article archive on Lou Rockwell which serves to explain something I'd wondered - what his idea of government (and governing) might look like.

Political Power and the Rule of Law by Ron Paul Annotated

[P]oliticians are not supposed to have power over us – we're supposed to be free. We seem to have forgotten that freedom means the absence of government coercion. So when politicians and the media celebrate political power, they really are celebrating the power of certain individuals to use coercive state force.

Remember that one's relationship with the state is never voluntary. Every government edict, policy, regulation, court decision, and law ultimately is backed up by force, in the form of police, guns, and jails. That is why political power must be fiercely constrained by the American people.

The desire for power over other human beings is not something to celebrate, but something to condemn! The 20th century's worst tyrants were political figures, men who fanatically sought power over others through the apparatus of the state. They wielded that power absolutely, without regard for the rule of law.

...

Aside from the lack of ethical self-interest shown by voting for a candidate based on their "strength" and perceived "toughness," we should all realize that in choosing that path we are abandoning our own duty to participate in, comment upon and know about the issues of the day. It also displays an appalling ignorance regarding the Constitution and our rather unique political system.

I very much understand the seductive vision of a Government that Does Good things, but the trouble with that is that in order to do Good Things, we empower them to do Bad Things as well, at least, unless we are very vigilant and careful in crafting limits on that power. The power we delegate is attractive to the very people who will be tempted to do Bad and Stupid things to us, often For Our Own Good.

Those who hold political power, however, would lose their status in a society with truly limited government. It simply would not matter much who occupied various political posts, since their ability to tax, spend, and regulate would be severely curtailed. This is why champions of political power promote an activist government that involves itself in every area of our lives from cradle to grave. They gain popular support by promising voters that government will take care of everyone, while the media shower them with praise for their bold vision.

My personal view of the role of government as a useful tool is probably somewhat broader than Dr. Paul's, but we have had so few spokespersons coming from a position of Constitutional fundamentalism that I'm loathe to ignore his observations and insistence upon the fundamentals.

And therefore, let me state that I see the government as a tool, belonging to every citizen, legal resident, tourist and even every illegal alien that exists solely to protect individual rights and liberties that our Constitution recognizes to be inherent in each person, regardless of status, position, citizenship, sexual orientation, race or creed. To that end, and to that end alone, it is empowered to guard our liberties.

But I'm also a realist. If government exists only to say no and does not somehow facilitate the correction things that trouble, inconvenience or anger a majority of the American people, it's not unreasonable for it to be discarded as rusty and useless.

And I observe that while government has become a dire threat to the freedom and legitimate private choices of all Americans, it's due largely because Government has ceased to consider the rights of individuals, instead heeding only the voices of corporate bodies, such as military contractors, trade organizations, big pharma and religious pressure groups.

These various corporate interests hold power in their own right that rivals that of state and even many national governments. Many of them (Haliburton leaps to mind) are quite literally above the law - and others seek to write law regardless of it's impact upon the liberty of citizens. Indeed, many of them have effectively limited my liberty in some of the most basic ways, through economic coercion. This is particularly noticeable in our food supplies and consumer goods; a handful of corporations determine what we will be able to buy and where we will buy it. Bluntly, they have stolen the commons - save, of course, in the areas where other giant corporations (such as eBay) find a profit in enlarging it.

But as much as I value such free-enterprise solutions to such problems, it's my guess that had others seen it coming, they would have stomped all over Ebay. Nor can we ask corporations, structured as they are under the laws that apply, to put the interests of the consumers and their workforce even on a par with that of the shareholders. This is simply a fact - and those facts must change if we are to change that reality.

You may be tempted to view that as "anti-capitalism" and "anti-free market," but on the contrary - I wish to see a regulatory climate that actually favors individual enterprise and rewards the risk of capital. I wish to see a lowering of regulatory barriers to the markets that are rigged to favor big corporate interests. And ultimately, I see this as a vital component in a truly viable and affordable national security policy.

The real key to national security in this day and age is an infrastructure that cannot be easily disrupted by a few sticks of dynamite, so we need to look at, for instance, encouraging widely redundant, small scale energy production using local resources. This is quite aside from "green" fuel initiatives, but that's where the technology is.

We need to have our essential defense forces, our first-responders here, instead of "over there," with a broader base in our social fabric. Most importantly, we need to cultivate a culture of participation and tolerance.

So, we don't need a Department of Education. We DO need a national standard minimum curriculum which is the basis of our citizenship. That minimum common basis of understanding is vital - but beyond the requirement that it be successfully taught, we really do not care how, where or by whom, do we?

Universal access to health care is vital, both politically and personally, when unexpected health care costs have become the leading cause of personal bankruptcy. HOW we go about that - what choice of mechanism, what happens between need and delivery need not have a single answer - but it must become straightforward, simple and accessible to every citizen. It is a common interest regardless of wealth or poverty, class or station. When you are sick or injured, that is not the time to be hassled with paperwork or worrying about the ability to pay.

We also need to look at the ethics involved - it's frankly improper to require doctors or hospitals to consider the necessity of rationing health care in order to make a profit. Doctors, nurses and hospital staff need to make a living - a good one, commensurate to their responsibilities and demand for their skills. But hospitals should be local, with oversight from those who depend upon them.

It may well be that the least intrusive, best performing system would be "socialist" in appearance, at the bottom tier, at least. If everyone needs a thing, and everyone is able to pay their share of that thing, than that is what it will look like. The difference, of course, is whether it's mandatory or optional. A good system of universal health care needn't be mandatory - simply competitive as all hell.

But this end could also be accomplished in part by regulatory means; for instance, requiring that insurance companies divest themselves of hospitals and requiring hospitals return to a "not for profit" standard. And certainly, it would be simple and elegant for people to be able to choose to participate in an insurance pool funded by an opt-in withholding program.

Why? Because that system exists and the expertise exists. If we decide to revise the tax code - as we really should - it would be silly to toss away all that expertise infrastructure and equipment only to have to re-invent the wheel.

At it's base, it should be not-for-profit with an emphasis on prevention and health, but it should be possible for people to buy additional coverage for things such as private rooms, etc. Perhaps we need to return to the idea of "not for profit" insurance, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield used to be, but with the possibility of private, for profit institutions that accept "plus" coverage, cosmetic services or "a superior recovery experience."

And of course, the simplest thing of all would be to require all government and private insurance to use the same database format and the same minimum criteria so that overhead costs for health care providers would be lowered and consumers could compare apples to apples. Of course, this should be encrypted to the same standard as critical defense secrets, but what's an NSA for, humn?

And finally, we need to take a serious look at creating a universal social safety net, one accomplished as much or more by regulatory change as by spending. Changes in zoning laws and landlord-tenant laws would do a great deal to alleviate homelessness, joblessness and many other ills that simply throwing money at people will not solve.

Changes in legislation that would help natural and voluntary families care for one another without interference would go a good ways to creating such a safety net too. But what we must stop relying on is military service, government service and prisons. From the viewpoint of our culture and civilization, sending everyone a check would be far cheaper.

But we cannot tolerate Constitutional compromise. Further, it's a sign of sloppy thinking and lazy legislation. If a desired goal cannot be constitutionally attained, then it probably should not be. If it really must be attained, then there is an amendment process that ensures that all objections are heard.

Finally, I think that Government must be reminded that it should be worth the price people are asked to pay, and that a good government is like any other enterprise - competent, effective and considerate of it's clients. Right now, that standard has not been met on the federal level in living memory and I rather expect the same could be said of most state and local governments.

Edit: I came back to fix a few misspellings and a grammatical error or two and realized there was a glaring point I'd failed to meet head-on. Coercion is coercion is coercion. It matters little to me or thee if force is applied by government to force me this way instead of that, or if it's economic force applied to me by a corporation. If the government does not protect me and the markets my liberty depends on, it matters very little who benefits from my compliance.

And likewise - a "tax" is anything you must pay or any standard you must comply with (at your own expense, risk or inconvenience) in order to do what you have to do. My doctor pays a "tax" amounting to the full salaries of two people and the partial salary of a third simply to comply with paperwork related to insurance forms. He passes this cost on to the insurers of course - who stick me with a "deductible" which is, in fact, a tax on MY access to health care, and since I have no choice about that - due to where the insurance comes from - it's a tax, and a damned steep one at that.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although there are some legitimate and constitionial functions of government, Ron Paul is an excellent spokesman for the problems and risks of too much government power and control.

For example, Washington foreign policy has dramatically increased the risk of terror attack on the United States.

The Failed Great Britain Terrorist Attacks Could Happen Here in the United States!

Learn what could happen when the United States is hit by another terrorist attack by Islamic extremists that creates an extreme response by Washington in The Final Presidential Executive Order at http://www.swissconfederationinstitute.org/swisspreserve14.htm

This is a fictional case study from a new free online book, “The Swiss Preserve Solution” & read how an over reaction dramatically curtails personal, financial, religious and civil liberties in the United States.

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