Last week a Gallup poll showed that 3 out of 4 Americans support term limits for both houses of Congress.
Of all the ills of government, the lack of term limits (and the consequence thereof, career politicians) I consider to be the primary evil the Founding Fathers most egregiously failed to address in the Constitution. While I am glad to see that the concept of term limits has the support of a large majority, even I am not naïve enough to believe that any chance exists for a such ever to be passed into law. Like some diseases, the ills of term limits only can be “vaccinated” against prophylactically but not cured once a body politic has contracted the condition.
In this post last week I quoted the following observations from Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday, January 16, 2013:
The truth of the matter is that these elitist leftists who want to control every aspect or as much of life as they can do so precisely because they have no faith in you. You look at a guy like Ronald Reagan, or look at any conservative. I’ll use myself. When I look out across the country I make an assumption that we are populated by a country where the majority of the people are decent and good and trustworthy. We can count on them, they’re reliable, and when they’re needed, they’ll show up. We look at the people of this country optimistically. We look at our future optimistically. We look and see a country of people who can take care of themselves and who want to, who are self-reliant, who want to be self-reliant, maybe in some cases even rugged individualists. We don’t see anything wrong with that.
The left however, people like the president and other Democrats look out over the country and they don’t trust the inherent goodness of people. Quite the opposite. Why would they have all this legislation to control as much behavior as possible? They don’t trust you to do the right thing. They don’t think you’re very smart. They don’t think you’re capable of becoming very smart. They don’t think you’re capable of becoming very educated. They don’t think that you’re wise enough to make the correct decisions that they think you should make in raising your kids, in taking care of yourself, running your own life. They have to do it for you. And they approach you in this effort by making you think that they have great compassion for you and love and caring and that they only want the best for you.
We don’t look out over this country and see every aspect of it we want to control. We’re not into controlling anybody. We like freedom. We believe in free will. We think that you are the best steward of yourself and your self-interests, not some faceless, distant capital that claims to care about you more than you do or than we do, that claims to have your best interests at heart. Because I’m telling you, the truth is, when they look out over this country, they look at people with a contempt and an arrogance and a condescension that says, “Those people can’t get through the day without me. Those people can’t get their kids to school and keep them safe without me writing laws about other people and their guns.” You don’t know and don’t have what it takes to take care of yourself. They have to do it for you. And they want to do it. They want to control your life. They want that power over you.
Practically every piece of legislation that comes from the Democrat Party is rooted in your inability to run your own life, and that comes from their looking at you and seeing incompetence and inability. You have no wisdom. You don’t know how to make the proper judgments in life. The way to understand this is to understand that they don’t love you. You are to be used to advance their power.
You’re an experiment to prove that they know better than you do how to live your life, ’cause you don’t have what it takes. There’s no other reason to want to enact all of these controls on people’s lives. There’s no other reason to want to take this kind of freedom away from people. That reason is simply power for themselves, rooted in their sincere belief that you don’t have what it takes to get through life without all kinds of problems being caused that you don’t know how to fix.
With that quotation as a backdrop, consider the career politician (a.k.a. a member of the “ruling class”) in the same way one might consider other professionals such as musicians or authors.
A musician today cannot be unaware of the existence of truly majestic pieces of music that have been penned and performed throughout history. Works of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson – the list could go on almost interminably across a swath of genres.
A fiction writer contends with Homer, Sophocles, John Milton, William Shakespeare, Henry Fielding, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoevksy, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and countless other authors of epic poetry, plays dramatic and comedic, novels, short stories – not to mention nonfiction writers whose prose and insights offer exemplars that beggar the talents of all but their rarified peers.
Yet new songs still are composed and new books still written. Why? Because innately in a human being – though not acted upon or cultivated by all – resides a drive to achieve something and be someone, to live on in memory for having set a similar or greater example or standard than those previously set.
This drive manifests in virtually every human endeavor or field. Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile, Neil Armstrong taking a giant leap for mankind, Sir Edmund Hillary mounting Everest, Bob Ballard plumbing the depths and secrets of the briny deep: insatiable yearning and effort drove these achievements that humanity collectively celebrate.
What businessman would not like to be the next Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs? What basketball player, the next Michael Jordan? What philospher, the next Aristotle? What director, the next Orson Welles?
Politicians are not immune to this same drive. Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II set forth a policy of “enlightened despotism” that entailed his love of arts, which flourished under the reign of this so-called “Music King.” From Alexander the Great to Adolf Hitler, the thought of world conquest has tempted despots of all ages and places.
Herein lies the rub. The American experiment, as the Founding Fathers envisioned, aimed to squelch this tendency of government to “matter” or be of consequence in the lives of its citizenry (excepting only in its military defense of citizens from threats to their liberty).
On today’s show, Rush Limbaugh advised:
All we need to do is get back to the Constitution. It’s really not complicated. It’s gonna be very hard to do, but really all we need to do is get back to the Constitution. The Constitution was written expressly so that a ruling elite, be it because of class or wealth or birthright, would not occur. This was a government that was formed that was severely limited. The Constitution is filled with limits on the government, not on the people, not on the citizens. And, of course, we’re now living through a 180 on that, where the limits on freedom are on citizens and the expansion of power and the ruling elite, the people that are in it, is in government, in Washington, D.C.
I am less sanguine than Rush for, as I said above, I believe that certain problems must be blocked from the start or remain impossible to eradicate. Rush explained one reason why later in today’s show:
I mentioned going into the break at the top of the hour that one of the best ways the ruling class stays exclusive is the progressive income tax. … The progressive income tax is the number one obstacle to individuals accruing wealth – and wealth equals power, and vice-versa. Power equals wealth, or translates to wealth. It’s a closed club. It’s a very small bunch of people, in truth, compared to the population. The way you get into this club is usually via your university or your family legacy, family name, what have you.
Once you’re in the club, the objective is to keep everybody else out of it. You don’t want the club to grow. You don’t want the clique getting bigger, and one of the quickest ways to keep people from becoming powerful is to make sure they don’t become wealthy. The best way to keep people from becoming wealthy is to raise their taxes, their income taxes.
The means to enact term limits to break up this closed club almost entirely rests in the hands of this same closed club, who would have to vote against the self-interest of themselves and their brethren in so doing. Anyone actually think the majority of Congress is likely to enact term limits upon themselves any time soon?
Though the number in the quotation varies by source, William F. Buckley, Jr. is credited with having said:
I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.
As expressed in the Constitution and early history of our nation, government was intended to be made up of Mr. Buckley’s preferred group of governors. The Constitution speaks not of particular education or extensive credentials as requirements for office; rather, citizenship and age. (Thank Heaven: our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, was our least formally educated and arguably our most brilliant chief executive.) The notion that government would rest in the hands of a select few who continually obtain reelection and ceaselessly expand the role of government beyond the bare minimum tasks necessary to function and into an intrusive Leviathan with its hand in every aspect of a citizen’s life was anathema to the Founding Fathers. The very point of the Revolutionary War was to cast off the oppressive yolk of a domineering ruling class. Why?
As the old adage holds, power corrupts. Politicians give away goodies to constituencies that keep them in office; in turn, those constituencies enjoy prefered stead regarding taxes, benefits and whatever else they can wrest from the public trough. An elected official’s “legacy” and continued hold on power almost invariably matter more to him than the interests of his entire – not merely prefered – fellow citizens. Notably excepting former Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), forgotten and unfollowed is the example of President George Washington, the “Modern Day Cincinnatus.”
For me, as for the Founders, an elected official can achieve the most enduring “legacy” by: securing the border; enacting no new legislation; shutting or paring down as much and as many (especially federal) government agencies and programs as possible (leaving the work to private industry or, better, nobody); reducing taxes; reducing spending; and leaving after no more than two terms. In sum: get and keep government the hell out of the way. Eradicating slavery was a good move; replacing it with serfdom was not.
And to all those politicians who want to “make a difference”: do it on your own dime and with your own time. It has been done before.