By Robert E. Krysak
I read Darrell Beck’s Commentary last week with considerable interest, as I always do. It was a thoughtful and well-reasoned recitation of his minimalist views on government and its fantasized phantom role in fostering an orderly and functional society. I respect that position, if not to the extent advanced by Darrell.
In support of his position, Darrell quotes Thomas Jefferson. Now, it is well known that Thomas Jefferson was a great believer in the inherent goodness of man, which was in his view capable of conducting themselves well without the intrusion of a central government. His view of mankind was not only in error, but it was shaken to its core dramatically by what he witnessed in the French Revolution, when mob rule and unfettered explosion of “the people” led to unspeakable horrors.
Jefferson’s vew of the limited role of government in fostering orderly interaction of humankind was also at odds with other scions of our founding such as John Adams, George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Jeffersonian Democracy was, in fact, the process of Thomas Jefferson unwinding the substantial grab of federal power under George Washington and John Adams.
Alexander Hamilton favored the restoration of the monarchy in America. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, facilitated the creation of a government with multiple layers and checks and balances and a U.S. Senate with substantial terms so they were not susceptible to the vagrancies of “the people.”
I could fill the pages of this newspaper with quotes from these individuals attesting to their belief in a strong federal government, but what would it matter — they’ve been dead for over 200 years. Darrell, as a student of history, also knows that the struggle between federal power, state power and the power of “the people” has been fought over and ebbed and flowed since our founding.
The Continental Congress dealt with states that believed themselves to be sovereign and failed to contribute to the extent believed necessary for the joint efforts against the British. Once independence was secured, the implemented Articles of Confederation proved a monumental failure due to the lack of a strong unifying federal presence, leading to the Continental Convention of 1987.
The resulting U.S. Constitution was the result of an epic struggle between those believing in the sovereignty of the states and the preeminence of “the people” and those believing, as did James Madison, that a strong federal government was the only way that the union could survive. Our first president, George Washington, agreed.
Through the course of our history, this struggle has been waged. Andrew Jackson had to threaten an invasion of South Carolina over the policy of nullification, the state’s efforts to just say no to the federal government. We all know of the hundreds of thousand of casualties suffered during our Civil War, another chapter in the battle of states rights versus federal power, which did not work out so well for states rights.
The battle over federal/state/local balance of power continued through Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan and every other president. Federal power has ebbed and flowed throughout the generations.
And as long as there is breath in ambitious people, there will be a certain balance attained which will be ultimately acceptable and productive.
The government is certainly not the enemy, and not some monolithic distant entity. The government is us, created, stretched and contracted over more than 200 years of sometimes agonizing growing pains. If this is a tyranny, it is a tyranny with 535 tyrants, our Congress. And guess who sets up the tyrants in power and keeps them in power? ”The people.”
If “the people” did not want the Affordable Care Act to pass, they should have voted different Congressional representatives who passed it. If they were so opposed to President Obama and his policies, they should not have returned him to office in 2012.
The real dilemma, Darrell, is what do you do when you don’t agree with what “the people” want and bring to bear? You profess to believe in the “hard-working people,” but yet these are the people who voted for a Congress and president over the past 200 plus years which have led us to where we are today. If you truly believe in “the people,” you should respect their choices, and fight within the bounds of our legal political system to effect change, as I know you do. Both sides get to promote their agenda, and then “the people” speak their will — their will be done, whether we agree with it or not.
The real enemy of our system is ignorance and apathy, which is legion. I cringe to think that our fragile system of government is dependent upon those who fall victim to 10 second sound bites and the red meat thrown at them indiscriminately and with shallow intent by business savvy talk show hosts on both sides of the political spectrum who revel in their own simplistic analysis and roll in the dough brought in by their wild and incendiary and unsubstantiated allegations. But be careful, Darrell, you may not like what an enlightened and educated people implement, so best they remain apathetic and unlearned. They have already spoken in ways you seem not to like.
I make it a policy never to denigrate others or their motives. I do not call people tyrants, immoral, criminal, corrupt or other inflammatory epitaphs except as proven to be so, as everyone has a right to a righteous belief in their position and their views on government, whether we like it or not, as we have for over 200 years. Someone who believes in a strong government footprint in our lives is not a traitor, immoral, criminal, or a tyrant, just at variance with your or maybe even my opinions, and if they carry the day in the electoral process, they win.
For example, Darrell calls the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional and an act of tyranny, despite the fact that it was passed by our Congress and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court created by the Constitution he so fervently worships. I cannot call it unconstitutional. I happen to support the Affordable Care Act, because it is personally the only way I will even be able to avoid bankruptcy or death by being able to secure health insurance for when I become ill.
I don’t think Darrell is wrong, just of a different opinion. I respect his opinion despite that I do not agree with it.
We need to have leaned and intelligent dialogue on issues which confront us, not inflammatory and simplistic bait.
Do I believe the federal government has expanded much too far? Yes, as I have since the Supreme Court interpreted the Interstate Commerce Clause as being as expansive as they found it to be, or when Citizens United allowed unfettered corporate input into our political system.
But cheer up, Darrell, as a student of history, you know as well as I do that we as a nation will survive and thrive, as we have through Civil War, depressions/recessions, Social Security, Medicare, wars, Civil Rights and numerous other growing pains. We will just ebb and flow and adapt as we have since 1776.
Robert E. Krysak is a Ramona resident.