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Your Useless Right of Property

Monday, May 01, 2006

I've had two quotes sitting on my desk for a couple of days while I try to decide what to do with them. The first quote is from very recent history; the second from a couple hundred years ago. The first deals with getting the White House to comply with the wishes of Congress; the second explains the rights of citizens and the taking by government of their property.

As you may know, there has been a lot of talk about the illegal wiretapping that had been conducted by the NSA, which received authorization from the Bush administration. I've looked into this topic pretty extensively (here, here, here, here, and here), and have reached the same conclusion that any sane person would: it's illegal and the president needs to stop. To that end, Senator Arlen Specter has issued a stern warning to the White House:

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he planned to introduce legislation that would cut off funds for the surveillance program, which he described as a threat to civil liberties and a violation of domestic espionage laws.

Specter said he was not yet prepared to support a cutoff of funding, which he said would be a measure of last resort. But he warned that if the Bush administration was unwilling to comply with existing laws or help draft new domestic surveillance legislation, the only way for Congress to exercise any control over the program might be to deny funding.

"What's the use of passing another statute if the president won't pay any attention to it?" Specter said. "When you talk about withholding funds, there you're talking about a real authority."

What struck me about this quote was that Congressman Specter recognized that by withholding money from the Bush administration he could compel them to comply with the law. Specter recognizes that government, first and foremost, operates on money; that without money, government ceases to function. He admits that all the laws in the world will not make the president stop spying--he even says that the president is in the habit of ignoring laws he doesn't like. No, Specter is a realist. He knows that the only way to get the Bush administration to operate within the law is to cut-off their funding. And that is exactly what Specter is threatening to do if the Bush administration is unwilling to comply.

The second quote is from an Address to the Inhabitants of the Province of Quebec, dated October 26, 1774. One of the stated purposes of making this address was to try to unite the new nation in America with the people in Quebec province. It seems that people all over the new continent were being abused by rulers in Europe. (I guess ours is not a special story after all.) The Continental Congress issued this address to help educate the people of Quebec to what some of the more obvious inalienable rights were that were recognized by a free people:

On the solid foundation of this principle [that to live by the will of one man, or set of men, is the production of misery to all men], Englishmen reared up the fabric of their Constitution with such a strength, as for ages to defy time, tyranny, treachery, internal and foreign wars; and, as an illustrious author [Montesquieu] of your nation, hereafter mentioned observes, "They gave the people of their colonies the form of their own government, and this government carrying prosperity along with it, they have grown great nations in the forests they were sent to inhabit."

In this form, the first grand right is that of the people having a share in their own government, by their representatives chosen by themselves, and, in consequence, of being ruled by laws which they themselves approve, not by the edicts of men over whom they have no control. This is a bulwark surrounding and defending their property, so that no portions of it can legally be taken from them but with their own full and free consent, when they in their judgment deem it just and necessary to give them for public services, and precisely direct the easiest, cheapest, and most equal methods in which they shall be collected.

The influence of this right extends still farther. If money is wanted by rulers who have in any manner oppressed the people, they may retain it until their grievances are redressed and thus peaceably procure relief without trusting to despised petitions or disturbing the public tranquility.

The members of the Continental Congress understood that from the right to own property all other rights are secured. By having control over his own property, it guarantees a man his freedom from being terrorized by oppressive governments. It's up to his discretion as to what he deems "just and necessary to give them for public services." Members of the Continental Congress recognized that if any government were allowed to ignore laws, to violate rights without fear of reprisal, to take property by force and without just cause, then tyranny would prevail. Senator Arlen Specter also recognizes this by his above statement. I recognize this simple fact, too.

Here are my questions on this subject:
  • Why is it acceptable for Mr. Specter to withhold funds from government, but not I?
  • Does he have any more right to make that decision than I?
  • Have we not both reached the same conclusion after examining the same facts?
  • Why would he be righteous in his decision to withhold funds and not I?


Anonymous Jack Brewster said...

I think Specter's heart is (technically) in the right place, here, but his actions are not.

If the President is breaking the law, then the only appropriate action is to pass articles of impeachment against him.

If lying about getting a hummer to Congress is enough to get impeached, surely illegal wiretaps against citizens should be as well.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I agree with Jack. And I question whether Specter is just do the old Congressional grandstand. He seems willing to have Congress pass a law that abrogates the Constitution, too.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Jack Brewster said...

Don - Does your blog have a comments feed?

4:39 PM  
Blogger Don Bangert said...

Jack, unfortunately the answer to your question is 'No.' Blogger (for some unknown reason) doesn't offer user's a comments feed. From a quick search, I see that this option has been asked for on numerous occasions. There may exist other alternatives so I'll have to check into this...

As for Specter's motivation: most assuredly it will be to push for more legislation. What other option would a lawmaker consider? Besides, law enforcement is for the executive branch.

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Jack Brewster said...

Sounds like someone needs their own website running WordPress, then. ;)

8:29 AM  

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