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The Proper Function of Government

Guest Editorial by Rep. Karey Hanks

The Proper Function of Government

The Proper Function of Government

Guest Editorial by Rep. Karey Hanks

What is the “proper function” of government? It is debated on TV, social media and election campaigns. Many people don’t care much, as long as they have gas in the car, a paycheck, food to eat and a little spare time. Life is good! How many people actually take the time to vote in any given election?

Laws were established by our Founding Fathers to preserve freedom–not restrict it. They believed laws should be enacted only to protect against physical harm, theft and involuntary bondage. Government should not be a means of compelling citizens to perform acts of charity against their will—“redistribution of wealth” in current terminology.

Frederic Bastiat, a French economist, called this redistribution of wealth “legalized plunder.” He explained:

See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to
other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen
at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” (The Law)

A simple analogy might be, say my car breaks down and my next door neighbor has three cars. Do I have the right to demand he surrender one of them to me? Isn’t that fair? I may ask to borrow a car and he has the option to lend it to me, or not, but I do not have a right to the “fruits of [his] labors.”

In a similar vein, if it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend me morally to do it?  Actions, immoral at the individual level, do not magically become virtuous when carried out by government.  

If I have a right worthy of protection (life, liberty, property), then I may delegate my power of self-protection to the government to implement such laws as are necessary. If, however, I do not have a right individually, then I cannot support my government in carrying out an immoral action to secure any so-called, or made-up right I think I or others deserve.

George Washington warned, ”Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master!” This is why we must be ever vigilant in holding our leaders accountable for their actions and then vote accordingly at election time.

Although we have, as a nation, strayed far from the principles our Founding Fathers espoused, I believe as we become educated about these principles, it will motivate us to become more involved and engaged in reestablishing limited government with leaders who also uphold liberty and freedom.

 

13 Comments on The Proper Function of Government

  1. Tip o’ the hat to anyone who quotes Bastiat!

    This article seems rational, conservative, and prudent, however; it spotlights the need for all patriots to read and test the ideas they learn and have in order for them to become tempered.

    Take for instance how Sumptuary Laws, which are laws not under the categories of “physical harm, theft and involuntary bondage”, were discussed at the Federal Convention of 1787:
    Monday, August 20, 1787. In Convention
    Mr. Mason moved to enable Congress “to enact sumptuary laws.” No Government can be maintained unless the manners be made consonant to it. Such a discretionary power may do good and can do no harm. A proper regulation of excises & of trade may do a great deal but it is best to have an express provision. It was objected to sumptuary laws that they were contrary to nature. This was a vulgar error. The love of distinction it is true is natural; but the object of sumptuary laws is not to extinguish this principle but to give it a proper direction.

    Mr. Elseworth. The best remedy is to enforce taxes & debts. As far as the regulation of eating & drinking can be reasonable, it is provided for in the power of taxation.

    Mr. Govenor Morris argued that sumptuary laws tended to create a landed Nobility, by fixing in the great-landholders and their posterity their present possessions.

    Mr. Gerry. the law of necessity is the best sumptuary law.

    Monday, September 13, 1787. In Convention
    Col: MASON. He had moved without success for a power to make sumptuary regulations. He had not yet lost sight of his object. After descanting on the extravagance of our manners, the excessive consumption of foreign superfluities, and the necessity of restricting it, as well with oeconomical as requblican views, he moved that a Committee be appointed to report articles of association for encouraging by the advice the influence and the example of the members of the Convention, oeconomy frugality and american manufactures.

    DOCr. JOHNSON 2ded. the motion which was without debate agreed to; nem: con: and a Committee appointed, consisting of Col: Mason, Docr. Franklin, Mr. Dickenson, Docr. Johnson, and Mr. Livingston. *2

    *2. This motion & appointment of the Comittee, not 3 in the printed Journal. No report was made by the Come.

    So, the conclusion by the Framers of the Constitution was not that Sumptuary Laws were bad but the the consumption of the citizens under the authority of the USA was best directed by taxation…leading to the large taxes being placed on hamburgers, salt, and more products to “supposedly” make them chose not to buy those products in favor of more “desirable” items.

    Social engineering is social engineering…and the power of taxation can often be used in lieu of an actual law, like Sumptuary Laws.

      • I know, Bastiat’s “The Law” is so pure in its common sense refutation of socialism it dazes a person since we all have the property in us to be “social” or “communal”…the opposite of that is to be an outcast or “anti-social” which no one wants to be. Be that at is may Bastiat does a great service in spotlighting it is just plain wrong to appropriate anything from anyone if they did not consent to the process…and simply being Human is hardly to be construed as “consenting to a process”.

        My Pop used to ask me a question when I was young, “How can an entire country of people like the USSR be wrong since ‘They are Communist’?”

        And it makes me sad, because you can read history and see the serfs of Europe wanting some equity from the aristocracy, you can see the Russian peasants wanting equity from the Czar, you can see the American immigrants in the late 1800’s and 1900’s being repelled by the violence and lynching of the KKK and White Mobs and being enticed by the Communists alluring call to “Fraternity”, “Union” and “Brotherly Love”.

        The path of the truth is not easy to find or walk…so tip o’ the hat to Bastiat for leaving some good markers on the trail.

  2. Always a good comment when I have to ensure myself of the meaning of a term before I respond. Yes taxation has and is being used in place of Sumptuary Laws but how do we stop the federal government (the level of government we have the LEAST control over) from doing this? I am thinking a constitutional amendment limiting the taxation powers of the federal government, perhaps going back to the imposts and fee scheme that worked for the first 100 years of the Republic. That would kill off, or at least devolving those powers not granted in the Constitution back to the states where it should reside. Problem is that only the most virtuous people in power ever give up that power peacefully and without struggle. And before someone responds, I am not sure that even the states (or at least MY state) should be doing these Sumptuary Laws either(even though they do some already).

    • First off, is for all Patriots to learn and bounce ideas off one another. Second off, is to step back in sheer horror at how stupid the general populace really is…most would believe that taxation is only used for revenue purposes and not for social engineering. And thus we have the property tax…which beyond the anti-freedom premise itself…has the ugly history of something like the British creating a Property Tax on the Zulus just to make them leave their huts and work…so, do we have the Property Tax to create revenue for the government or do we have the Property Tax to make us work? It is an important distinction…and one our elected officials would do well to tell us they know the difference.

      I agree with your observation that the Framers of the Constitution had the right idea about what was proper taxation. Though (tongue in cheek) I have a hard time understanding why the Federal Government would not take the whiskey from the Hillbillies as tax payment since currency was rare in the hills leading to the Whiskey Rebellion…just goes to show how pigheaded the gubbermint can be.

    • Here are the powers over which the federal government has control – they are in writing, and they are found within the US Constitution, mostly in Article 1, Section 8.

      Our US Constitution authorizes the federal government to handle the following objects for the Country at Large:
      — Military defense, international commerce & relations;
      — Control immigration & naturalization of new citizens;
      — Domestically, to create a uniform commercial system: weights and measures, patents and copyrights, money based on gold & silver, bankruptcy laws, mail delivery & some road building; and
      — With some of the amendments, secure certain civil rights.

      Remember as stated in the 10th Amendment, all others powers are reserved by the States OR The People….

      So what can those who serve within our federal government, within the legislative branch, LAWFULLY spend money on?

      It is the listed (enumerated) powers of objects on which Congress may appropriate funds which are:
      — Immigration office (Article I, Section 8, Clause 4)
      — Mint (Article I, Section 8, Clause 5)
      — Attorney General (Article I, Section 8, Clause 6)
      — Post Offices and postal roads (Article I, Section 8, Clause 7)
      — Patent and copyright office (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8)
      — Federal Courts (Article I, Section 8, Clause 9)
      — Military (Article I, Section 8, Clauses 11-16)
      — And the civil list found within (Article I, Section 6, Clause 1)

      There are a few other objects listed in various other articles, sections, and clauses elsewhere. But consider that those who serve within the federal government are only allowed LAWFULLY to spend money on those items listed above. If it is not listed there or one of the very few other items found elsewhere, they are actually committing a crimes – what’s another, right – Misappropriation of Funds. Basically it is important to realize that the US Constitution already placed limits on their spending, but we do not hold the to it. The Constitution already itemizes exactly what those who serve within our Congress is permitted to spend money on.

      • I have heard an argument against a Balance Budget Act from the stand point that it would justify Congress spending money on stuff they ought not to in the first place. A Balanced Budget Act would state they can spend whatever they want as long as the Budget is Balanced.

        It seemed to be a sensible argument. Though for the life of me how a modern country can normalize Deficit Spending is beyond me.

  3. Ms Hanks has set the stage for a meaningful discussion, and I much appreciate the cogent reasoning of the comments. Would any of them disagree that we, as a nation, have lost our way in our ideas about the proper role of Government ? Even a superficial knowledge of the founding era will show how far we have strayed. Instituted to safeguard our life, liberty and happiness, the Federal Govt. has become the existential threat to our life, liberty and happiness. The question is, what to do ? Where do we begin to restore the rule of law in our country ? My own activism has been boots on the ground, most notably as one of those acquitted along with Ammon and Ryan in Portland. As far as what to do, I feel that the sinkhole of corruption we call DC is beyond reform. As much as possible we should turn our back on it. Restoration of our life liberty and happiness will be much more doable at the state and local level, and indeed we should stop thinking of ourselves as US citizens and start being citizens of our states. I invite comment from those above.

    • Hello Neil, writing a comprehensive reply would take up more room that the article itself. As a short observation the money system has to be set straight before any meaningful change can come to politics. When those in power have put all credit in the hands of the State (Communist Plank #5) and can devalue the money in ordinary citizens pockets by escalating the issuances as well as hiring countless minions with these FRNs…then, power cannot be checked and is left to the dubious good-will of politicians now and in the future.

      As far as relying on States, they have not been too sharp on their mandates, for instance: U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, Para 1: “No State Shall…make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;”

      States are on the authoritarian gravy-train along with the Federal Government.

      • Boyd : Yes, the malign trend of seeing the Fed as lord and master, and the States as political subdivisions of it, is dogma to some. Many State governments are infested with federal subcontractors posing as state officials.I’ve heard that the Nevada state legislature submits all of it’s proposed laws to the Fed for approval! This situation is the reverse of the founder’s intent. Once again, we have to start somewhere, and after writing off Mordor on the Potomac, what is left except A state ? The Money…Didn’t JFK try to start a “US Note” in competition with the Federal Reserve ? Is there any Constitutional bar against a state issuing it’s own currency?

        • Neil, in my mind that is the thing about the law, if the law is clear and clearly being broken, it is not the State’s requirement to DO anything other than don’t break the law in this case tacitly “making” something other than gold or silver a legal tender for tax debt and wage debt. JFK did issue Executive Order 11110 but it was an anti-Silver move:

          “I again urge a revision in our silver policy to reflect the status of silver as a metal for which there is an expanding industrial demand. Except for its use in coins, silver serves no useful monetary function.

          In 1961, at my direction, sales of silver were suspended by the Secretary of the Treasury. As further steps, I recommend repeal of those Acts that oblige the Treasury to support the price of silver; and repeal of the special 50-percent tax on transfers of interest in silver and authorization for the Federal Reserve System to issue notes in denominations of $1, so as to make possible the gradual withdrawal of silver certificates from circulation and the use of the silver thus released for coinage purposes. I urge the Congress to take prompt action on these recommended changes.”

          As far as D.C. goes here is an article I wrote about breaking it up: https://boydevanwhite.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/three-capitals/

          Interestingly, South Africa has three capitals apparently:
          https://www.quora.com/Why-does-South-Africa-have-3-capitals
          “Much like the very idea of the balance of powers, leaders of early South Africa decided that having all government centralized in one place could give that place too much power, so it divided the branches among three provinces.”

          Also, to throw some new thoughts into the mix and to augment your desire to remove yourself from the criminal maladministration of the US’s economic affairs…and from the premise that “The Law Is Good”…have you heard of the Renunciation Defense?
          https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1091-affirmative-defense-solicitation-renunciation

          The USA through its Full Faith and Credit does pull its citizens in as accomplices…so the Law provides a remedy to Renounce that criminal affiliation. The catch is the citizens using Renunciation Defense have to make sure the crime does not happen. The question is, how to we make sure the crime does not happen? The answer is frightening.

          Another legal defense is called “General Release and Covenant Not To Sue”: http://www.alllaw.com/forms/litigation/general_covenant_not

          If the USA pulls me in as an accomplice and you in as an accomplice but you, I and others sign a “General Release and Covenant Not To Sue” we release each other, in the eyes of a Candid World and God Almighty, that we don’t hold each other bound to the criminal normalization of Deficit Spending and the arbitrary raising or suspending of the “Acceptable Amount of Public Debt” clause of the Budget Control Act of 1974.

          Those are just some legal ideas I’ve picked up and am sharing for general conversation.

  4. Boyd, I’m impressed by your command of the laws, much more extensive than my own. we come down to the lense we see them through. Your “Three Capitals” aticle, and the caviat expressed in the Federalist essay does support a dispersion of the Government, but we have far more than just three capitals, we have fifty! Your reasoning curves back to the extremely doubtful proposition of reforming the District of Criminals. Never happen short of a revolution, which no one, least of all me, wants. We can take the power away from those ten miles square, by having a state or states taking it back, by a resolute assertion of it’s 10A prerogative.

  5. Trump’s recent moves to break up the old boy network – by re-assigning long entrenched DC bureaucrats to new posts far from Washington, is a concept he might use for his own office. Take the power of the president out of that sinkhole. Visit DC for ceremonial occasions but reside in the various cultural empires – Midwest, South, Northeast, Northwest…………..

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