TAMPA, January 5, 2013 – There is yet another faux debate raging in Congress. According to Fox News, the House and Senate have passed a $9.7 billion aid package for Sandy victims. Most Democrats and Republicans are calling for an additional $51 billion.
Some Republicans are dragging their feet.
It would be encouraging if even a single Republican articulated the principle at issue here, but none have. Republicans in Congress couldn’t find a principle if it were slid under their doors with envelopes full of lobbyist cash.
For the record, the principle is this: Citizens in Wyoming shouldn’t be taxed to rebuild the houses of other people in Wyoming, much less New York or New Jersey. This is another bedrock American principle that has completely vanished from the minds of most Americans.
Instead, Republicans object on the grounds that not all of the proposed funding is necessary for immediate relief. In fact, there is some considerable pork built into both the House and Senate versions of the bill, including “$150 million for fishery disasters in a range of states — including Alaska and Mississippi” and “nearly $45 million was included for work on NOAA’s hurricane reconnaissance aircraft.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted against the measure, saying, “We have to talk seriously about offsets,” he said. “We can’t take $60 billion off budget, that’s my problem with it.”
The common sense and acknowledgement of reality are refreshing, but Huelskamp still avoids the main issue.
Property is a right, just like free speech. It was recognition of the right of each individual to keep the fruits of his own labor and dispose of them as he saw fit that made the United States the richest nation in the world, relatively overnight.
While the immediate cause for the outbreak of hostilities during the American Revolution was the British attempt to disarm the colonists, the long term cause was the British threat against property rights.
American schoolchildren are taught that the colonists’ only grievance was “taxation without representation.” That’s convenient for big government progressives on both sides of the aisle, because they can then say, “You are represented, so we can tax you however we please.”
Those schoolchildren are not taught that the colonists also did not want representation in the British Parliament. Jefferson said so in his Summary View of the Rights of British America. Benjamin Franklin was strictly instructed not to accept any deal with the British that involved colonial representation in Parliament.
The colonists wanted no part of any political system whereby they could be taxed and the money spent for the benefit of other parts of the empire. Representation in a Parliament where they were hopelessly outnumbered would only add the veneer of legitimacy to this armed theft.
The colonists opposed it enough to secede from the British Empire.
The Federalist Party sought to reestablish this system during the early republic. Alexander Hamilton’s program of high protectionist tariffs, “bounties (corporate welfare),” a central bank and a large, interventionist military establishment amounted to a reconstruction of the British system within the new American Republic.
The system was rejected again in 1800, this time by an election. The Federalists were thrown out and Jefferson and the Republicans were brought in. The property rights of the individual were the centerpiece of Jeffersonian republicanism. He said so in his first inaugural address and again in his second, reminding Americans that it was the government’s job to protect “that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry, or that of his fathers.”
With the Jeffersonians in power, the federal government wasn’t even allowed to build roads.
If you’re wondering why modern Republicans don’t cite these foundational American principles, it’s because today’s Republicans did not emerge from the Jeffersonian tradition.
“My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a National Bank. I am in favor of the Internal improvement system, and a high protective tariff. These are my sentiments and political principles. If elected I shall be thankful; and if not, it will be all the same.”
Lincoln’s policies as president were completely consistent with this statement. Lincoln and the Republicans never believed that the rights of the individual outweighed the needs of the collective. The Republican Party and the conservative philosophy that informs it have never been about limited government, individual liberty or property rights.
Throughout human history, conservatism has always been about big, all-powerful government and empire. That’s why no conservative ever takes a stand for the individual against law enforcement and never questions any act of the military, no matter how unnecessary or destructive.
Those few Republicans like Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater (sort of) and Ron Paul who championed the rights of individuals were the real “RINOs.” They were really disaffected classical liberals and libertarians with no other place to go once the Democratic Party went populist-socialist.
That’s where we are today. We are given a choice between empire and commune, fascism and socialism, right wing collectivism vs. left wing collectivism. Both sides believe that Americans can be taxed for anything that benefits the collective. Neither recognizes that individuals have a right not to be taxed for the benefit of other people.
That’s why we’re going down, just like the rest of the world.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.