Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Game With No Rules

     [The following two pieces first appeared at Eternity Road in November, 2011. In light of the mountain of evidence accumulating to the effect that we have a “Deep State” that has conspired, and is still conspiring, to nullify the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency, they struck me as unusually relevant to today. -- FWP]

     Imagine the following: A friend asks you to play a game with him. He gives it a name you've never heard before -- perhaps Fizzbin -- but assures you that you'll love it. Inasmuch as you've trusted him for a long time, you agree and ask, "What's the objective?"

     He grins and says, "Well, there isn't one, really. Mostly just to play."

     That comes as something of a surprise, but, resolved not to be too easily daunted, you ask, "What are the rules?"

     He produces a second grin, a bit more sheepish than the first, and says, "There aren't any. You can do whatever you like."

     Does that strike you as a game anyone could or should "play?" With no objective, there's no way to win, lose, draw, or conclude the game. With no rules, there's no limit to what you or your opponent can do to each other. There's no right, wrong, legal, illegal, better, worse, loser or victor. What's the point? Indeed, how does it qualify as a "game?"

     No, Gentle Reader, your Curmudgeon isn't just wordspinning for the sake of consuming a few excess pixels. He's describing the federal government of these United States.

     Remember when Nancy Pelosi, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was asked for the Constitutional authority behind ObamaCare? Remember her response? That was a pretty good illustration of the "rules" our federal government, the most powerful instrument of coercion that exists in the world today, operates under. A couple of days later, Pelosi actually elaborated on her response: she said that in her opinion, Congress has the power to do anything: to make law of any kind, on any subject, and to whatever effect it likes.

     That came as quite a surprise to your Curmudgeon. The surprise wasn't that Pelosi would believe such a thing, but that she would say it into an active microphone. However, after some time to ponder it, he realized that Congress has operated under those no-rules rules for a long time already -- and that We the People have acquiesced to it with hardly a peep.

     You might reply, "Well, yeah, but if they do something we really dislike, we can always boot their sorry asses out of their seats at the next election." Are you sure about that? Even if we discount the 95% rate of recidivism re-election among incumbent federal legislators, what's to prevent an omnipotent Congress from passing a "law" to the effect that, "owing to the ongoing emergency," elections for Congress must be suspended for the foreseeable future? At least two liberal Democrats, one of them a state governor, have suggested exactly that course of action.

     Governor Perdue later attempted to pass her remark off as "hyperbole." But another, even more prominent Democrat has made an even more revealing statement:

     We are reminded of what Bill Clinton said on 11 March 1993,
     "We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans . . . ."

     Bill Clinton then said on 12 August 1993,

     "If the personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution inhibit the government's ability to govern the people, we should look to limit those guarantees."

     Clinton was the president of the United States when he said those things. He never after bothered to qualify them, let alone retract them. They're the clearest possible explication of the dangers of a government which claims to have interests of its own.

     Star Parker issues a plaintive cry in her column of this morning:

     Is it not sad that the most fundamental aspects of our ability to live as a free people boil down these days to how nine Supreme Court justices choose to read and interpret a word or phrase?

     Is it not sad that most basic violations of individual liberty are not intuitively obvious to so many citizens and members of Congress?

     Or perhaps even sadder, that liberty may no longer be the objective?

     For a permanent political class which sees itself as the government and the rest of us as its subjects, liberty is no part of its objectives. Execpt, of course, for the State's "liberty" to do whatever it pleases with us, with our money and property, and with our futures.

     Therein lies the rub. The federal government is no longer, in Franklin D. Roosevelt's words, a "people's government." It is no longer, in Abraham Lincoln's words, a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." It is a supralegal entity, unbound by any principle of law or justice, that sees the rest of us as no more than fodder for its own interests.

     Lawrence Auster has discoursed on this phenomenon. He sees it as being independent of party or ideology, as well. Recent history appears to support his view.

     It might be a while longer before a federal hegemon dares to attempt the overt suspension of Constitutionally prescribed elections, or the unabashed dismissal of a right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. But let us not doubt that, in a Congress which allows a Nancy Pelosi to remain seated within it, the potential exists. Another thing recent history tells us is that sooner or later, such a potential will be actualized.

     Private Americans, who wish only to be free, cannot win this game with no rules. Neither can we withdraw from it. We can only end it. It's become highly unlikely that we can do so via the ballot box; the political class has rigged that element of the game in its own favor, and will fight to the death against any attempt to cleanse it.

     It's time to look at one another and ask the hard questions.

     Part 2: Where Are The Officials?

     Imagine the following:

  • During a Major League Baseball game, an outfielder climbs over the fence and stands among the fans to catch what would otherwise have been a home run...and nothing is done about it.
  • During a National Football League game, a linebacker pulls out a billy club and uses it to beat the opposing quarterback unconscious...and nothing is done about it.
  • During a National Hockey League game, a player slashes an opponent across the neck with his stick, decapitating him...and nothing is done about it.

     Unimaginable, right? Even if those games were among the most exciting ever played -- and given that the officials allowed the tactics described, they just might be -- the fans wouldn't stand for it. Such behavior is what the officials are there to prevent, or to penalize when it happens. Were the officials to turn a blind eye to such deeds, the games would no longer be baseball, football, and hockey as the fans understand them. Game attendance and home viewership would swiftly decline to a few sociopaths.

     (Rollerball aficionadoes might disagree, but your Curmudgeon is trying to make a point here.)

     The rules are the game. The rules define how victory is determined, The rules prescribe what must, may, and must not occur. The rules also state what's to be done with those who violate the rules.

     And with that, your Curmudgeon comes to his critique of the Constitution of the United States and our supposed attachment to it.

     A law of the usual sort specifies not merely what's mandatory or illegal, but also the penalty to be imposed on those found to have violated the law. Thus, the citizen is put on notice that should he dare to defy the law and be convicted under it, he will suffer a specified exaction from his life, liberty, or property. Granted that some laws allow judges and juries "sentencing discretion," the requirement that a valid law must incorporate a statement of the consequences for its violation goes back to the Magna Carta.

     The Constitution, "the Supreme Law of the Land" (Article VI, second paragraph), evaded those requirements. That's a major part of what's wrong with the Constitution. Worse yet, the Constitution never explicitly states whose duty it is:

  • To determine when a violation of Constitutional law has occurred;
  • To determine who is responsible for that violation and bring him (or them) to book;
  • To impose and enforce the Constitutional penalty.

     If the Founders believed that the federal courts would answer those needs, they omitted to consider that the courts, themselves a branch of government, could easily enter into alliance with the other branches and either refuse to acknowledge Constitutional violations, or collaborate in their defense. "The least dangerous branch" could turn into a refuge for extra-Constitutional rationalization and exculpation -- just as it has. If the Founders placed the whole burden of "Supreme Law Enforcement" on the electoral process, their faith in elections was terribly excessive. Despite their expressed fears, it would appear that they didn't fear democracy enough.

     It's in the nature of things that a government cannot be obliged to restrain itself. Any constraints placed on it must be imposed and enforced from outside. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? as we used to say in ancient Rome.

     As matters stand, there is only one agency capable of punishing a violation of the Constitution, and therefore of restraining the federal government: the people in arms. But We the Supposedly Sovereign People have refrained from any such enterprise. Whether we've disavowed the responsibility, or have become flaccid, or have been bought off, we have scamped our duty to enforce the Supreme Law of the Land against those who have progressively shredded it: our political class.

     Perhaps it was inevitable. Perhaps the peace and plenty we accumulated under limited Constitutional government has lulled away our will. Perhaps it was too soothing a drug to resist. Only the results matter.

     The Game With No Rules is as it is because the only officials there can ever be -- We the People -- have called no fouls, sent no players to the penalty box, issued no "red cards." Instead of marching against the usurpers of power and the infringers of our rights, ejecting them from their places of power, tarring and feathering the routiniers and hanging the ringleaders from District of Columbia lampposts pour encourager les autres, we've shrugged, murmured "well, what can we do, anyway," and allowed them to continue. Indeed, we've returned them to office far more often than not.

     But taking up arms to defend our Constitution and the principles it enshrines is so dangerous. We could get hurt -- maybe killed! Don't we have police and an army for that sort of job? Besides, some of those violations are popular. Who are we to oppose something so many people approve, just because it's a Supreme Law Violation? Just trust in the electoral process; things will work out in the end, you'll see.

     Thomas Jefferson noted in the Declaration of Independence that "all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." That tendency to preserve the multiply flawed known rather than risk the unpredictable unknown -- to prefer the devil we know to the devil we don't -- has its base in both history and good sense: few revolutions have produced successor regimes that were objectively better than the ones they toppled. But at what point do the evils become insufferable? What will we do about it, sheep that we've become, when that point is reached?

     More anon.

No comments: