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Monday, November 21, 2016

My Freedom Trumps Your Fake Mandate

Politicians can't have a mandate that the voters lacked the ability to give them.

The election of Donald Trump proved to be a major upset of a political and media establishment blinded by hubris. The establishment took their superiority—technological, cultural, economic, moral, etc—for granted and paid the price. They believed they had a mandate to rule and influence the people by virtue of this supposed superiority, but were proven otherwise.

In particular, the fact that Donald Trump’s demotic speech and use of social media bodes well for the future of political debate, left and right alike. What many considered to be Trump’s inarticulate babble ultimately supplanted the refined propaganda techniques of the elite. Donald Trump is certainly an excellent self-promoter, but at least he didn’t sell himself to the masses like soap or the latest pop music phenom in crisp packaging and poll-tested slogans. Trump’s victory was, in a way, a vindication of the everyman’s manner of speaking and his place in the political sphere, and I say this despite my reservations with Trump’s agenda.

Power gives us a guarantee,” the people will chant, “and set us free from the risks of liberty!”

But, what if the establishment isn’t the only group taking their moral superiority and mandate to rule for granted? What if, in the heat of passion and resentment, the American people are taking their own ideals for granted?

How long can America remain a free society if all we do is pay lip-service to the cornerstone of the American republic—the presumption of individual liberty—without truly defining or defending liberty in the first place? How long can America remain exceptional if we only presume ourselves free and morally superior while demanding the government to act in any way “the people” please, contra the nation’s founding ideals?

If the establishment could be so blind to their impending folly, could the same thing happen to the United States in terms of its standing as a free society? How can any president or Congress have a mandate to rule when they fail to respect the basic point and purpose of American government—to protect individual rights?

How a Free People Can Come to Love Their Serfdom

Say, you thought the human race could not be trusted with their freedom. How would you go about subjugating a people proud of their liberty?

If you tried to do so by sheer force, you would most likely be unsuccessful. Once a people have tasted liberty, they tend to be willing to die to keep it—that is, if they do not kill you first. Resistance to your overt suppressions would be spontaneous and fluid. You would be trying to stop a river with your bare hands. Every single stamp of your boot would create multitudes of martyrs and scores of new enemies devoted to ending your tyrannical aspirations.

Even if you somehow found victory through brute force, your legitimacy would hang by a thread. “Might makes right” is not only a dead letter among thinking men but an invidious invitation to imposters and imitators ready to supplant your rule. Not even tyrants wish to sleep with one eye open night after night. Even they wish to dream in peace once in awhile.

But, what if, instead of this conspicuously violent approach, you were able to put the people themselves to sleep, to hypnotize them? What if you were able to trick a free people into deceiving themselves? What if, in the name of freedom, you could convince a people to forsake their freedom? What if you could nudge them into a suicide pact in the hope of avoiding national suicide?

All concerns are now seen as worthy altars upon which to sacrifice human liberty–as long as they are popular enough.

To do so, you would need to confuse people into thinking their liberty was merely a matter of sharing in the promises of power—say, convince them their right to vote and dictate the lives of others was more important than their individual right to think, speak, and act freely—and then watch their lust for this power make them regard liberty with jealousy and fear.

You would also need to suggest liberty is just another good in the marketplace of ideas rather than the cornerstone of a just society. You could claim liberty should be “balanced” or even sacrificed for the sake of security, wealth, health, equality, or the nation’s greatness. You could do this until the people themselves start singing the same chorus that all the solutions to all the world’s ills have a price tag marked with “our freedom.”

Power gives us a guarantee,” the people will chant, “and set us free from the risks of liberty!”

Has “What if?” Become Reality?

What if this scenario isn’t merely a hypothetical, but a creeping reality?

Unfortunately, I fear much of the American electorate has reached this point—fearful and jealous of liberty yet hopeful in the promise of power to save them from the ills of the world—and thus, the people are willing to trade their liberties and trample on the liberties of others for the sake of security or even simply keeping the opposition party out of power. In contravention of their constitutional traditions and founding based upon the presumption of liberty, the American people have come to accept a system of government that defines authority not by virtue of individual rights, not by individual moral standards regarding political force, but by the idea that the might and desires of the collective supersedes all other considerations.

As Ayn Rand wrote of the American founding,

“The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law. The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right.”

Two centuries of democratic competition and reform has nearly shattered this noble notion that the collective is restrained by individual rights. Caught up in their right to vote rather than their right to live freely, the American people are slowly committing suicide, chipping away at the libertarian values that make America exceptional in the first place. And the few restraints that still hold true are being threatened with each successive election cycle.

The great flaw in the American system is this: in rightfully constraining the power of government institutions, “the will of the people” has broken loose from any notion of restraint. Much like kings and emperors of old, “the people” have come to see themselves as the sovereign possessing an authority above not only their constitution but also the presumption of liberty.

Trump has no mandate to violate the rights of anyone, no matter how many people voted for him to do so.

Each voter may vote as he or she pleases for any reason: for health, for safety, for religion, for happiness, for efficiency, for equality, for jobs, for war, for a candidate’s speaking style, for a candidate’s hometown, for a candidate’s physical attractiveness, for a candidate’s race, for a candidate’s gender, so on and so forth.

Take your pick.

All concerns are now seen as worthy altars upon which to sacrifice human liberty–as long as they are popular enough in the eyes of the sovereign public. Democratic law has become justified by the mere might of the majority and by the notion that questions of truth and justice are to be decided by the majority’s authority. Such is a blind and foolish surrender to the idea that “might makes right” masquerading as justice, as law, and as liberty!

Don’t Take Trump’s Mandate for Granted

As a recent example of this surrender of liberty, President-elect, Donald Trump, said this on the campaign trail about his proposal to ban Muslims (but I’m sure this excuse applies to other policies as well,) “The Constitution, there’s nothing like it, but it doesn’t necessarily give us the right to commit suicide as a country. Okay?”

Luckily, Judge Andrew Napolitano has addressed this trope that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” by flipping the phrase on its head. Rather than the path of liberty being the road to national suicide, Napolitano begins his book, Suicide Pact, saying:

“I am mocking those who misuse this statement by incorporating the most incendiary of its words into the title of this book. I intend the phrase ‘suicide pact’ to mean that a Constitution which permits the government to violate it and the president to do so secretly and with impunity is a suicide pact with the states that formed it and the American people whose freedoms it was intended to secure because it will result in such a loss of liberty that it will bring about self-immolation of our formerly free society—its suicide, if you will.”

Therefore, despite Donald Trump’s recent victory, he and the GOP have no mandate whatsoever to violate the rights of Americans citizens and foreigners alike no matter how many people voted for them to do so. We cannot take for granted that America is exceptional just for being of, by, and for “the people.”

What makes America exceptional and gives any American president his mandate is not simply the blessing of a given majority but his fealty to the Constitution and its presumption of American liberty. Any time the American government acts contra to its billing of protecting individual rights, it has no authority, no mandate, to do so.

It is up to those of us who love liberty to remind people of this, that liberty is the cornerstone of our free society. If we fail to do this, we can expect American liberty to go the way of the recent American establishment, as just another forgotten loser, drowning in the wake of the people’s momentary desires for power.