What’s in a Name: 3 Pieces of Legislation with Misleading Titles

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Upon winning independence, our founding fathers were wary of centralized power. They understood the corrupting nature of power, and set about creating a system meant to balance power, and reduce greed and corruption. 

Our system of “checks and balances” is supposed to ensure that the government doesn’t violate the constitution, and they were successful.. for a while.

Arguably the first erosion to this system came in 1913, when the 62nd Congress voted to pass the 17th amendment. Prior to 1913; the general population would directly elect members of their community to represent their interests in the House of Representatives, while state legislatures would pick 2 citizens of the state to serve the interests of the state at the federal level. When state legislatures picked Senators to represent their state, the Senator holds no power, if you’re not living up to your obligations, than the legislature would replace you.  Counteracting the members of the house who would stay in power by using charm to win re-election. The general population lives in an echo-chamber. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC and read Slate on your phone while driving the kids to school.  If you’re a republican you watch “The Five” on Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh on your lunch break. When you think about it, it’s incredibly easy to trigger Democrats,Republicans, and Libertarians.

For example most Democrats LOVE giving their takes on these topics:

 

  • Income inequality
  • Healthcare
  • Identity politics 
  • Environmental concerns
  • Abortion
  • Guns
  • Taxes not being high enough

 

While Republicans will lose their mind for:

 

  • Illegal immigration
  • Military spending
  • Police
  • Guns
  • Taxes
  • Christianity
  • Muslims
  • Abortion

Libertarians? We will lose our mind for just about anything, but if you want to get us going discuss:

  • Roads
  • Military
  • Public Education
  • Free Markets/Regulations
  • Entitlement Programs
  • Ron Paul
  • Government spending

 

We’re all hypocrites. Democrats care about identity politics, unless you’re a person of color who may disagree with you politically.  They want government mandated equality for every gender and race, except white guys. Republicans think we spend too much. Specifically on regulations, bureaucracy, and entitlement programs; but balk at cutting military spending, despite finding $125 billion in administrative waste, or any government spending that helps them remain in power; you’re a conservative farmer who wants to cut food stamps? Alright, how about after we cut corn subsidies? Last month I wrote about how Social Security is destroying our country and Republicans went ballistic. Libertarians are the most annoying people on the planet, nobody’s a “real” libertarian, we have a portion of the party that wants free markets, but is anti-immigration and “America first.” We have a county chair in Michigan who supports Antifa, and our Vice Presidential candidate appeared to be actively supporting Hillary. Literally no consistency.

Our general stupidity, and tendency towards hypocrisy has allowed the career politician to thrive. Knowing we react to buzz words and topics that sound sexy, they use psychology to garner support. Just look at the title of the bills they write .

The Patriot Act

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Sixteen years ago next month, on 10/26/01,  George W. Bush signed the “USA Patriot Act” into law. Passed in the aftermath of September 11th by a vote of 98-1 in the Senate, and 357-66 (it is worth mentioning that the only Republicans to vote against this bill were Robert Ney, Butch Otter, and Ron Paul) in the House, in an attempt to curb terrorism.  

To put it simply, the legislation was passed in a panic with very little debate. Former Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3162 on October 23, 2001, the House passed it the next day, and within 72 hours we had passed legislation that massively expanded the scope of the federal government.

There is nothing “patriotic” about the “Patriot Act.”  The indefinite detention of immigrants? That violates the sixth amendment. “Enhanced surveillance?” That’s led to NSA wiretapping, a clear violation of the fourth amendment. A lot can be said about some of the shady things in our Constitution, but the most important political document in American history isn’t the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence; it’s the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. Both collections of essays helped develop this country; while the Federalist Papers defended the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists demanded there be a Bill of Rights to protect the people from the government.

The point is, the first ten amendments to the constitution are so important that it almost tore apart this country.  And in a moment of panic, we passed laws that violate the bill of rights.

The reason the Patriot Act keeps getting extended (last extended by Obama in 2011), is that no politician wants to appear weak on national security, and being against the Patriot Act means you support terrorism, so politicians continue to support it. Even though it doesn’t  work and often ruins lives.

Affordable Healthcare for America Act

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The “Affordable Healthcare for America Act,” commonly referred to as “Obamacare” was President Obama’s landmark legislative achievement. FDR had “The New Deal,” Johnson had his “Great Society,” Barack Obama has “Obamacare.”

Signed into law by the 111th Congress in March of 2010, with a single Republican voting for the legislation (Joseph Cao, Louisiana). 39 Democrats voted against the bill, bringing the final tally to 220 for, and 215 against.

The legislation is exceptionally long, and provided healthcare to 24 million uninsured Americans (at the threat of a tax for non-compliance). After surviving the Supreme Court, Obamacare premiums have continued to soar. As the “New York Times” points out;

“While fewer than 20 million Americans buy their own insurance, the tribulations of the individual market have captured most of the public’s attention. The average cost of a benchmark plan in the individual market rose 20 percent this year, according to Kaiser, as insurers tried to stem their losses. “

Although they later go on to defend the Affordable Care Act, the fact is that using the the term “affordable” is a misnomer. Being forced to pay for insurance you don’t want, that rises at a rate of 20% annually, under threat of punishment is the exact opposite of “affordable.”

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984

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Unlike some other pieces of legislation, “The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984,” enacted by President Reagan in October of 1984, doesn’t have a flashy nickname. The name itself is straightforward and to the point. An idiot could conceive what this legislation was meant to do. When enacted it became the first comprehensive revision of the United States criminal code since 1900. Like the Patriot Act for Bush, and “Obamacare” for Obama, “Comprehensive Crime Control” was meant to be, and is, a cornerstone of Reagan’s legacy.

The name itself is brilliant. Nobody likes crime, crime is bad. We need to get rid of crime.

But what is crime?

We all have our own moral code, our own sense of right and wrong. We all define crime differently. A soccer mom from Kansas is going to have a different vision of right and wrong than a poor kid from LA.

The benign nature of the name meant most people wouldn’t pay any attention to it. The goal was if you were against crime, than the average American wouldn’t give it a second glance.

Problem is the legislation was not benign. This country was founded on a set of principles that valued the individual over the community, the community over the state, and the state over the federal government. When it came to legal affairs the founding fathers preferred to leave the punishment of citizens to locals. A soccer mom in Kansas and a poor kid in LA have different experiences, values, and ways of life, it only makes sense that there would be minimal federal oversight on criminal affairs. That was true until small government conservatives created the United States Sentencing Commission, and put them in charge of normalizing prison sentencing.  Their recommendations became the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” creating mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimums have had a jarring effect on society. Disproportionately affecting people of color, and lower economic status, hurting multiple generations. Mandatory minimums created career criminals, comprehensive crime reform just created more crime.

The legislation also reinstated the federal death penalty, increased penalties for marijuana possession and cultivation, and created the despicable act of civil asset forfeiture .

All of this was able to get through because the name was self-explanatory and boring.
How a lawmaker labels their legislation matters. These pieces of legislation affect hundreds of millions of lives. What they pass matters. Using clever, or boring names and nicknames to either attract or repel attention is manipulation that pays off in votes. We need to demand better.

 

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Activism Isn’t For Everybody

I genuinely believe most people become involved in political activism for good reasons. Sure, there might be some genuinely power-hungry tyrants in the bunch, but those people are few and far between. It is quite possible that those who learn to be smooth and manipulative find their way to the top of the ladder, but that person probably doesn’t exist in your local activist group. Most groups are made up of average people who seek beneficial change. How beneficial that change is if implemented as policy or if elected into office is certainly up for debate, but those who give their time, money, and energy to political causes are doing so because they seek to improve the world around them.

Or it at least starts that way.

When it comes to politics, the best of people show the worst of themselves. Normally, when a person is passionate about a topic, it becomes their obsession. As soon as the alarm clock goes off when the sun comes up, their mind goes straight to the issue which they feel is plaguing society or their community, and they don’t stop thinking about it until their brain turns off at night. Given the obsessive nature of this, activists do become genuine experts on the issues they invest themselves in. Their heads become filled with facts, figures, and anecdotes regarding their topic of interest, and they can regurgitate them, ad nauseam, for hours on end. Despite logical conclusions and an incredible grasp of facts, there is not always a translation into a political victory.

Which is frustrating.

Oftentimes, when well-reasoned messaging fails time and time again, the once calm and jovial person can become frustrated and impatient while they try to gain more converts to their cause. Those who were once patient and opportunistic, inserting salient topics at the right times and offering a friendly smile when discussions became contentious, become militant and ferocious while reciting all the reasons the world is going up in flames, alienating new acquaintances and old friends alike. Invites to get-togethers with old friends dry up. Your phone stops ringing. The only people left to talk to, are those of the same ilk.

And then there’s social media.

Facebook is a blessing and a curse for the politically active. It is certainly a quick way to start linking up with people who are also passionate about activism, but the actual positives of the experience vary greatly from person to person. Some can handle the stress, and others retreat into an echo chamber of like-minded individuals. Those who are thick-skinned and patient, can wade through the muck and make great headway regarding creating political change. These people are good with forging strange coalitions, building long-distance bonds, and knowing when to put certain discussions to the side to preserve harmony.

Unfortunately, that isn’t everyone.

Those who occupy the opposite side of the spectrum, begin to struggle with engaging in thoughtful conversation. Initially, it’s only with those who simply disagree with the general concept of a greater philosophy and ideology, but then the turmoil evolves into something different. The “us vs. them” battle becomes even more factionalized. What once was being part of a group who is fighting a greater evil, becomes being a part of a wing who is fighting for a faction of a small political organization which seeks to bring about great and meaningful change. So now, before one can fight the greater evil, they have to organize the wing to take over the faction, and then grow the faction large enough to take over the organization. Meanwhile, the greater evil has grown, the organization has lost some of its political capital, your wing is small and powerless, the faction is full of lunatics, and nobody likes you.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Let’s face it; full time politics isn’t for everyone. Some people can keep their smile and never lose their light while dealing with the most angry and hateful people imaginable. Other people start to fade, and then through some political osmosis, take on the anger and hate. Sure, the anger and hate is rooted in some of the best places in the human spirit, but the darkness will eat away at that spirit until it is a fraction of itself, lingering inside an empty vessel which has lost any sense of joy or hope.

It isn’t selfish to care about yourself.

As much as a person might want to give of themselves to a cause, there has to be something left for you. Treading water is never fun, and it’s even harder when it feels like most people are against you. If you find that the mental exhaustion has taken its toll and you’re feeding on scraps, just let it go! Movements will carry on without you. Ideas will carry on without you. Life will carry on without you, but you’re the only person who can carry your life.

Take a break.

There are certainly some people, who simply need to stay out of the political arena. The environment is too toxic and it’s best if they keep politics at a minimum for their own well-being. Other activists simply need a break. Maybe you took on too much, too quick, and it was all a bit much to handle. The level of help found in most levels of politics is very limited except for presidential election years, and oftentimes one can find themselves with far more to do than their limited resources can handle. Man-hours are few and far between, and a person can easily find themselves burned out. There’s no shame in pulling back for your own health and wellness. If you aren’t at 100%, is that good for you or the organization you are representing?

Come back when you’re ready.

Take the time to get your own affairs in order. Enjoy your friends and family. Keep your news intake at a minimum (if there is a national emergency, I’m positive someone will let you know). Enjoy the upcoming fall colors. Give commentary about the market saturation of pumpkin spice…everything. Fondly remember when life was simpler, and the worst thing about the President was his grammar. Laugh at something stupid, and laugh at yourself when necessary, because we don’t have to be serious all the time. Make an underprivileged child’s Christmas a memorable one. Pick up some trash in your community. Go through your pantry and bring some cans to a food bank. Hug your kids. Pet your dog. Call your mother. Help a neighbor. Have a beer.

Remember how to enjoy life and do it.

6 Books to get Liberty Lovers Through the Summer

 

Television is depressing.  You can’t turn on the TV without hearing about some crazed students  calling for justice; or about a mentally ill man trying to assassinate members of congress.  Thankfully, there are dozens of incredible books and essays out there that can keep liberty-lovers sane, here’s a few of them.

“The Law” by Frederic Bastiat

First published in 1850, Frederic Bastiat’s classic essay on our natural rights, and the role of the state has influenced generations of libertarians worldwide.  Bastiat reiterates that all individuals are born with “Natural Rights” based on “Natural Law.” Bastiat; like Thomas Paine, John Locke, and Thomas Hobbes; proclaims that every individual is born with a set of inalienable rights that supersede the laws of the state. Life, Liberty, and Private Property, no state can take that away.  

Although it’s only 75 pages long, “The Law” has stood the test of time because it identifies not only our natural rights, but what the state can, and more importantly cannot, do.  

“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

The entire book can be found online for free, here.

“Economics in One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt

A journalist by trade, Henry Hazlitt spent decades covering economics, finance, and business for a variety of publications in the United States throughout the 20th century.

First published in 1946, “Economics in One Lesson” has influenced brilliant economists like Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell.

The relatively short essay uses a plethora of examples to explain the mistakes most people make when approaching economics; primarily, thinking about the immediate effects of an economic policy, rather than seeing how that policy could affect all groups in the long-term.  

“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

All 24 chapters can be found for free here.

“1984” by George Orwell

Published in 1949, George Orwell’s classic is set in a dystopian future in what was Great Britain, but has since been named “Airstrip One,” a province of “Oceania,” one of three superstates in a state of perpetual war.  

Oceania is run by “Big Brother,” a tyrannical government figure who oversees mass surveillance programs, and is controlled by elites who seek to squash individualism, and punish the population for “Thought Crime,” which is the terrible crime of questioning the government through unspoken thought.

The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, works at the “Ministry of Truth” as an editor.  As an editor for the Ministry, Smith is in charge of revising history to fit the narrative that “Big Brother” is trying to portray.  Although good at his job, he secretly hates the government, he doesn’t dare try and change anything, that is, until he begins seeing Julia, who shares his loathing of the controlling party.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

Recently Orwell’s classic has been more prophetic than fiction. The book can be purchased for about $10 here.

“The Federalist Papers” and “The Anti-Federalist Papers” by Various Authors

Perhaps the most important collection of essays in American history, “The Federalist Papers” and “The Anti-Federalist Papers” first appeared in 1787, and were penned by various authors, including James Madison, George Mason, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and various others.  

As Americans we tend to see the solidarity of the Founding Fathers; the “Declaration of Independence” and our Constitution are generally seen as an act of unity between men who wanted true independence from Great Britain.  These essays squash that notion.  While the “Federalist Papers” argued on behalf of the Constitution, the “Anti-Federalist Papers” believed that the Constitution lacked written protections for the individual.  The incredible arguments presented by both sides have influenced thinkers worldwide for over 200 years, and culminated in the “Bill of Rights.”

The “Federalist Papers” can be found for free here , while the “Anti-Federalist Papers” can be found for free here.

“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s American Classic, first appeared in 1953 and is set in an America where books are being rounded up and burned as a way to squash public dissent.  

The book focuses on fireman Guy Montag, whose job is to round up, and burn the possessions of those who read outlawed books. Montag comes to question the validity of his job when he meets Clarisse McClellan, a free-thinking teenage girl who just moved to his neighborhood.  

Bradbury stated that he released the book as a commentary on how mass media reduces interest in reading literature, and can have a brainwashing effect on people.  Bradbury, like Orwell, appears to be more of a prophet than an author, his masterpiece will only set you back $10.

“With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual,’ of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.”

“The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom” by David Boaz

David Boaz, an Executive Vice President at the “Cato Institute,” gives us what is perhaps the most comprehensive book about Libertarianism ever penned.  

In his book, Boaz discusses everything from private property rights, to drug legalization in a manner that is incredibly easy to read.  This book, more than any on the list, will give the you an incredible introduction to libertarian thought.  I highly recommend spending the $16 dollars and adding it to your personal library.

“As a moral matter, individuals must be free to make their own decisions and to succeed or fail according to their own choices. As a practical matter, as Frum points out, when we shield people from the consequences of their actions, we get a society characterized not by thrift, sobriety, diligence, self-reliance, and prudence but by profligacy, intemperance, indolence, dependency, and indifference to consequences.”