A Government of Men
by Edgar J. Steele
June 9, 2002
"Civilization involves subjection of
force to reason, and the agency of this subjection is law."
--Ezra Pound, The Future of Law (1937)
"...a government of
laws and not of men."
---John Adams, Declaration of Rights, Massachusetts Constitution, 1780
“The historic phrase ‘a
government of laws and not of men’ epitomizes
the distinguishing character of our political society....[L]aw alone saves a
society from being...ruled by mere brute power however disguised.
If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law,
every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny."
--Justice Felix Frankfurter, US Supreme Court, concurring in
United States vs. Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258 (1947)
In principle, ours is a government of laws, and not of men, as enunciated by John Adams when he penned the historic Declaration of Rights, which became a part of the Massachusetts Constitution. He thereby first framed the thrust of what Thomas Jefferson was to enshrine in the Declaration of Independence.
Adams, Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and George Mason (the unsung hero amongst our founding fathers) were among the vocal advocates of a Bill of Rights, and instrumental in turning federalist James Madison around on including them in the US Constitution. Of course, most refused to sign the Constitution until they were included, but that is largely forgotten.
And, for nearly 200 years, so it was. That was then, as they say, and this is now, however.
Today, ours is a government of men, at virtually every level and throughout the country (I refuse to use the term "republic" to describe what America has become). And we are seeing the beginnings of the chaos about which Justice Frankfurter spoke. Indeed the tentacles of the tyranny he said would follow are interwoven into the chaos, and more evident every day.
For the longest time, law did save our society from being "ruled by mere brute power however disguised," just as Frankfurter surmised. No longer, however.
Men formulate new laws at a record pace. Other men interpret them and still others apply them. Not just the laws are different now, but their application differs from place to place and depends upon who is applying them.
Just look at what Bush the Second has just done with his nascent Homeland Security organization. It comes more and more to resemble the Nazi Third Reich with each passing day. And the reasons given for the changes are all but identical to those with which Hitler lulled the German population just after he assumed power.
"If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can," said Frankfurter, one of the giants of American jurisprudence.
Bush declares war, supposedly the province of Congress.
The courts make law, also supposedly the province of Congress.
Of course, so does Bush (and his predecessors) make law via Executive Orders, which were designed merely to clarify administrative procedures.
Agencies and departments at every level of local, state and federal government generate, as their main product, a virtual maelstrom of rules and procedures, all of which are given the weight of law when hailed into court.
Daily, state and federal legislatures generate reams of new laws.
It has become literally impossible to be alive in America without breaking some of these laws on a daily basis.
Nobody any longer seriously disputes that the Constitution has been stood on its head.
Rapists get probation and murderers walk in six, yet a joint will get you ten in many states. Say the "N" word and go to jail. Spank your kids and lose them, then go to jail.
The prison population has mushroomed far beyond the general population's growth.
In my day, every high school graduate could read, write and do sums. Twenty years ago, they were still graduates, but could do none of those things well. Today, not even the teachers can spell.
Children are medicated at triple the rate of even ten years ago.
The dollar is worth a fraction of what it was, even ten or fifteen years ago, and sinking fast, thereby guaranteeing those on fixed incomes future poverty.
We have brought the Middle East terrorists to our shores with our intrusive foreign policies.
Chaos? You be the judge.
Tyranny? One man's tyranny is another's nirvana, with an infinity of stopoffs in between. There is a substantial segment of the American public, myself included, that believes tyranny has become the rule of the day. Regrettably, things can become much worse.
What's worse, there is no turning back. While we were busy making a sandwich during the commercial break, America's government underwent a coup. It began with JFK's demise (some push the beginning back prior to WWII, still others to the very start of the last century) and is now complete with the pronouncements of the moneyed crowd running things right out in the open, directly and via their bought-and-paid-for officials, "elected" by us.
The interests that were protesting during the Viet Nam war era have now consolidated their seizure and control of all the levers of power in America, make no mistake.
They are the ones making war on so many, both at home and abroad. That sound you hear is them tightening the screws. Control freaks, every one. A government of men, replete with the tyranny feared by the founding fathers and foretold by Justice Frankfurter.
Hear the footsteps? They are coming for somebody today. Maybe you, maybe me, maybe some guy whose name we can't pronounce. But they are coming for somebody, of that you can be sure. And it won't be the last...not by a long shot.
New America. An idea whose time has
Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002
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