Law & Our Democracy
One clear thing about the WikiLeaks affair is that outfits like The New York Times are showing their hypocrisy by failing to vigorously defend WikiLeaks' Julian Assange's actions. Wasn't it The Times that published Daniel Ellsberg's stolen Pentagon Papers and insisted that this was a valid exercise of its First Amendment Rights and that Ellsberg was a hero? And sure, there is a distinction between taking the papers and publishing them but it seems to me rather cowardly to hide behind that.
But the more serious and general issue is whether laws enacted in a kind of corrupted democracy such as the United States of America are actually morally binding on the citizenry. A good clue comes from the U.S. Supreme Court: "The very purpose of the Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the Courts. One's right to life, liberty and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections." [U. S. Supreme Court in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)]
Sadly, this purpose has since been completely abandoned by that same court, most recently when it basically abolished the Fifth Amendment's protection of the right to private property in the July 2005 ruling in City of New London, CT v. Kelo. Once democracy has become so bloated in its reach that no principles are safe from the mob, why exactly should citizens follow so called laws made democratically? They aren't really laws by then but merely rules laid down by those who have nearly unlimited power.
When as a 14 year old I lived in Budapest under the rule of the "democratic republic" of Hungary – which was but a ruse disguising sheer Soviet style power – my family repeatedly violated "the law," which is to say we defied the rules the communist – in fact, fascist – regime tried to impose on us all. We hid fugitives from Hungarian prisons and helped them escape to the West. We smuggled merchandise into Hungary with the help of athletes who were permitted to travel abroad (so as to show off how great communist athletes are). And most importantly I myself joined a group of adults who chose to violate the "law" that made it criminal to leave the country for nearly anyone not part of or favored by the ruling elite.
We made it across the border, after an arduous trip from the capitol to the Western border where border guards had been paid off by American agents so they wouldn't stand too firmly in the way of those trying to escape. All of this was "illegal." And no one in our group had the slightest compunction about our "illegal" conduct but felt enormous relief and even pride upon completing our journey. So, yes, we violated so called laws which weren't anything more than the rules of a tyrannical regime. And throughout human history and around the globe back then and even now, thousands are routinely engaged in this kind of illegal conduct. And they darned well have every basic right to do so and those championing obedience of the law in these kinds of cases are full of it.
But, you say, America is a democracy and its laws are indeed binding on all of its citizens. No, that is wrong, since this democracy is now way out of control; it has repeatedly overstepped the limitations of a valid constitution. America is now a vastly illiberal democracy, one in which the majority and those allegedly representing it are perpetrating innumerable tyrannical measures, imposing rules that have no business being part of a free country. Just consider the policies vis-a-vis the consumption of "illicit" drugs!
How dare these people impose their idea of "illicit" on anyone else? Who are they, anyway? And what about the innumerable petty tyrannies of government regulations – issuing completely unjustly from federal, state, county, to municipal rulers? All these are forms of prior restraint, imposing penalties, at times jail sentences, on people who have no committed any violations of any rights but merely are deemed by bureaucrats and their bosses, politicians, capable of doing so! How is that for justice – penalizing people because they might become criminals? That policy would have us all in prison.
No, I am not impressed at all by the claim that people are violating "the law" when that law happens to be grossly unjust, enacted in violation of the basic law of the land. Obedience, compliance, is only warranted because it will serve to avoid prosecution and incarceration.
No one is obliged to be suicidal in his or her comportment toward a government that is either out and out totalitarian or only a democratic, mostly petty, tyranny. With governments like that citizens are only obliged to be prudent and crafty, except when it comes to valid provisions of the criminal law.
Posted by WorkingClass on 12/12/10 11:56 PM
"The Boomers have been co-opted with money (in extrema), dope and booze. They are the spoiled, rotten apples in the barrel of humanity".
There are more than 70 million boomers. According to you all of them are scum. I hear this hatred of boomers expressed frequently. What makes you think they are all the same? Are there specific boomers in your life who have hurt you in some way. If so, why take it out on 70 million people?
Posted by Zenbillionaire on 12/12/10 08:04 PM
@ Phillip Mccormack
"If you see the words Trial by Jury it is a sham, it's Trial by Judge and 12 onlookers"
Spectators who got VIP seats at the show. This is what television has reduced our society to.
Posted by Philip Mccormack on 12/12/10 07:49 PM
The vote for not legalising pot in California was 54 / 46 That is 54 people telling 46 people what they can or cannot do, how to live their lives-this is WEIRD-for want of a better word, and it is certainly not democracy. There should not have been a vote in the first place if we are supposedly in a democracy.
We have suffrage, so does Zimbabwe; but they don't and we don't have democracy which is defined as Supreme Power Vested in the People upheld with Constitutional Common Law Trial by Jury where egregious and unfair laws are eliminated with Not Guilty Verdicts.
The jury vote is the only vote that really counts. Don't hold your breath waiting for it, we are in Admiralty Law since 1938. If you see the words Trial by Jury it is a sham, it's Trial by Judge and 12 onlookers.
Posted by Bob on 12/12/10 07:35 PM
Those who have experienced socialism can best analyze USA's current direction. Every branch of government and both political parties cannot be self-critical. They have evolved over time and have a tangled web of alliances. The individual citizen can be critical but has little power. Rogue congressmen must still work within the system and are as likely to make significant change as the fly is likely to devour the spider. It will be interesting to see what happens with the incoming congressmen. One can hope for USA. Maybe it is more likely freedom will flourish elsewhere.
Posted by Nick Lenarz on 12/12/10 07:13 PM
Rarely do I have anything to say against Dr. Machan's articles, and never more so than in this case- it seems as though he's writing from my heart itself! Criminalizing every aspect of life makes all mankind a criminal. So be it! Foolish laws are for fools to follow.
Bravo, Dr. Machan, not only for braving the rejection of tyranny as you did when you were a child, but also for leading the rest of us, blinded by a tyranny of our own making, out into the light of freedom. FANTASTIC article, thank you!
Posted by Eddie on 12/12/10 10:44 AM
In reference to what Barbara posted: I agree with these sentiments and thoughts. The Boomers have been co-opted with money (in extrema), dope and booze. They are the spoiled, rotten apples in the barrel of humanity. They prefer to go along to get along and are, among many, who prefer authoritarianism to real freedom since it is easier to deal with than to actually do any hard thinking. I am at times ashamed to be one of that generation. What all of this means is that the "X" and "Y" generations must, MUST, lead the way to a better life and future.
Posted by Alexsemen on 12/12/10 08:14 AM
Dear Sir Tibor Machan,
I'm comming from the same Hell as you , but to me it was to late. I was ruined throuhgt-out the real underground work of Power Elite "democracy"and their "multiculturalism bull-s--t ".
Only people coming , living, experienced both sides of the tyranny cold see properly where is the tyranny and how it's look like ! Maybe because I was doctor !!?? Never I've failed one diagnostic and I've saved people sentenced to death by the BIG Medical Science with their marvelous machines ! OK , sory about this comment !
I agree with you more than anyone else because I've said in 1995, only five years long living, experienced and studying the western society , in one Western democray : "the Western Democracy is becoming soon the same tyranny but no one can see that ! Will be shortly the same Stalin-like New World Order and maybe worst then that ! "
Now I see that I was right ! As usual, I am at least 20 years before the times !
DB , my best compliments to you !
Reply from The Daily Bell
"the Western Democracy is becoming soon the same tyranny but no one can see that ! Will be shortly the same Stalin-like New World Order and maybe worst then that ! "
yes, it seems so ... but people do see ...
Posted by Zenbillionaire on 12/12/10 05:13 AM
"How is that for justice ' penalizing people because they might become criminals? That policy would have us all in prison"
Not all of us. The authorities do not enforce their rules uniformly and the asymmetries are becoming much more pronounced. In 1972 a sitting president of the US was removed from office for ordering illegal wiretaps, today not only may a president tap any person's communications without oversight of any kind, he may order the execution of US citizens without due process.
Our current president recently said "The Jonas Brothers [a rock and roll group] are here; they're out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans; but boys, don't get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I'm joking?" at a dinner party. He explicitly announced he was not joking, he also has the power to fulfill the threat and has demonstrated the ability.
Conversely, a man was sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised probation last week in a Kentucky Federal Court for writing a poem that described the execution of a black president by a sniper.
Charges were brought against Johnny Logan Spencer, a 24 year old resident of Kentucky by the US Secret Service three years after Spencer wrote the poem and published it under a pseudonym on a white supremacy web site. Investigators found no evidence to suggest Spencer was actually planning an assassination or had the means to execute such a plan. Barack Obama was not named in the poem.
This situation is wrong on many many levels, however it serves as an excellent warning to writers of fiction, satire and poetry in the United States; there are no longer any limits on the governments powers to suppress dissent in political discourse.
I do not intend to endorse the cause of white supremacists in the above observations, in fact I expressly do not endorse their cause, however I cannot support pre-emptive law enforcement of any kind and do not believe it can be practiced in a free society. I also do not support two sets of laws, one for the elite and another for the commoners. Unfortunately it would appear that is exactly what we have.
Posted by Vicki on 12/12/10 02:58 AM
There is a little known provision in the Constitution that mandates that if the government itself is not following the Constitution, the citizens have the right, indeed the responsibility, to not support such a government and bring the governance of the country back into the hands of the citizens.
Another little known law is that of juris prudence. It states that jurors have a right to find someone innocent of a crime on the basis that the law they are accused of breaking is itself an illegal law. Laws that could be found to be illegal would be those that are in violation of the Constitution on which all valid laws are supposed to be based.
Regulations are a convenient way of getting around having to pass a law at all. Regulations can just be implemented by government agencies regardless of whether or not they are appropriate in a free society. Court cases based on violations of regulations would be a very good place for jurors to find defendants innocent based on the charge being invalid due to it not being based on a Constitutionally valid law.
Posted by Benny McGarity on 12/12/10 02:49 AM
All that we see happening in the world is an illusion, and cannot be trusted. It is the product of ancient times when men began to populate on the earth and dominate other men. Then it was by what ever means necessary,lying, cheating,and killing.
However, today in our civilized world, people are lulled into beleiving they can act as free men capable of governing themselves through an elected body which is ultimately corrupted by those who allusively still dominate by what ever menas necessary, lying, cheating and killing.
No one is asking "who got the money?" Somebody is getting it! It is those who still dominate by what ever means necessary, and those who buy into their thinking at the expence of the people who put their trust in them; elected official both democrat and republican. All are corrupted, or are powerless to effect any change becaus of corruption.
America and the whole world has been deceived and cannot escape destruction.
Posted by Don on 12/11/10 03:48 PM
An apparent lack of enthusiasm in promoting Assange serves the self interest of the New York Times. It may even indicate a subconscious repression of impending death by Inet.
Although mass media tyranny fascinates me, mass media's infinitesimal signal-to-noise ratio ratio makes consuming mass media a luxury that I can not personally afford. Instead I personally rely upon bloggers and others to provide useful intelligence.
Posted by Barbara on 12/11/10 03:34 PM
A call for revolution! I also think that is what Julian is trying to achieve, but not via physical means. This is a new century and we are entering a new era " the communication era. The industrial age and the information era are giving way to a whole new paradigm, and the elites and corporations that now hold global power are just realising that a whole new game is on and they aren't quite sure how to handle it.
Julian is upping the anti and they are panicking (via their mouth piece politicians). I tend to believe that Julian is 'true blue' mate, he is quite aware of where the battle needs to be fought and is rounding up global support against the true Axis of evil " global corporates, the banking elites, dictatorial American government and agencies, political systems that no longer serve us.
This is a critical time, a cyber war is nigh, Gen Y will not allow 'their' internet to be usurped by the corporates and elites. I think Julian has strategically planned the whole situation to achieve the aim of identifying to the masses (and particularly Gen Y who have the cyber clout) where the forces of good and evil lie and then let the revolution begin before the corporates and elite gain too much control.
The old structures and systems must fall, there is no way they can or should survive, they are on their last legs, and we should do all we can to hurry their demise. Rebel in all ways. There will be mass upheaval, which is what all governments are trying to avoid, but I think it is an inevitable and logical outcome of an age that worships only the dollar and has forgotten that the only true reason for being on this earth is to care for our families and good friends, grow strong supportive communities and connect with each other. We need to come back to these values and the way to do it is perhaps already happening in the States where people lose their jobs, move back in with family and share resources, build back up communities, re-evaluate their relationship with money, re-value their relationship with family and friends and perhaps come out the other end with a new paradigm?
The powers that be introduced the nuclear family to separate us, to disconnect the fabric of our societies, to pit us against each other in the mad rush to have the latest and greatest and better than our neighbours. The concept of sharing was anathema, we all need to have our own!
The Gen Y set 'get this', their whole existence is about connection and sharing of information and resources. They are prepared to provide their copyright and efforts for free or for a small return, to co-create, what an incredible danger this poses to the current commercial ruling forces. A group of people who are not subject to advertising and have minds of their own, who make up their minds about a topic after trawling through forums, who demand the truth and transperancy and are willing to work and play together no matter where they might be physically located in the world.
As a baby boomer, I too need to don my activist hat and help the cause in what ever way I can.
So, game on.........
Ps. Can we avoid the 'isms', I think they are most unhelpful and reek of the last century, communism against capitalism, socialism against liberalism, what a load of hogwash, this is just American propaganda to pit us against each other, get over it, don't use labels, they all mean something different to everyone anyway. We all want the same thing, to be cared for, not used and abused and spat out. Any system that allows us to be cared for as valued human beings and cares for all creatures, ecosystems and habitats, life resources and nurtures our connection to the land and each other, is what we should all ultimately desire. Who cares what it is called.
Posted by Ralph Tamm on 12/11/10 03:20 PM
I hate to say it but I don't think it's realistic to expect our so called government to change its stripes. We really need a totally new social structure based on on the condition that all human interactions are contractual. Today, the only non-contractual interactions are with the state and unions. So we are half way there.
Posted by Cloyd G Hinkle on 12/11/10 12:37 PM
All three of todays articles were very well written and reasoned. I have the greatest admiration for people who try to understand the truth and intelligently communicate it to others. We live in perlious times, where our technological advances have greatly broadened government's reach and destructive capacity. It is vitally important, that people, quickly learn, to appreciate the nature of government. I applaude your efforts to educate us all.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Posted by Robert Wheeless on 12/11/10 11:37 AM
I'm confused. Are you suggesting we bury our heads to realism or wait and let the Times tell us what realism is?
Posted by Greg Wilson on 12/11/10 11:23 AM
Thank you for this article. I am a Pastor of an unregistered Baptist Church. I believe this is not only truth but it is scripturally correct. We must as truth honoring people do what is right even if our government says it is wrong.
Posted by Don on 12/11/10 11:03 AM
"The New York Times are showing their hypocrisy by failing to vigorously defend WikiLeaks' Julian Assange's actions."
Above all else, the New York Times must defend its own self assumed role as cultural gatekeeper. Assange's use of the Inet presents clear and present threat to gatekeeping.
Posted by Bill Wolf on 12/11/10 10:38 AM
If people want to do drugs, or smoke cigaretes, drink alcohol, it is thier right, and even to excess, except if they cause harm to others, like driving a car under the influance, or child abuse, or working in the public sector, teacher, policemen, firemen, where their actions will harm others.
If they are out of control, they should be locked up, to prevent harm to others. Only lock up the dealers, and gang bangers, who distribute the drugs, that are illegal.
Posted by Mpresley on 12/11/10 10:35 AM
If one presupposes the individual is prior to the social order, then one's desires or thinking can be logically shown to trump those of society. However, if man is by nature (the classical argument) a political entity, then private actions against the regime must always be questioned, and sanctioned. This is not a new idea at all, and is the theme of Aristophanes' Acharnians.
The regime has a constitutional mandate to conduct foreign policy, the individual does not. Otherwise, there would be no real justification for government whose main role is to is to protect the "common" good.
Now, the "common" good can never manifest without a relatively homogeneous citizenry, a citizenry that understands the good (or the just--to use the classical term). It must be capable of definition, and more or less agreed upon. In a state of anarchy, or in a multi-cultural pluralistic state, there is little chance of agreement in these matters.
If the state is corrupt and not exercising its duty, then reciprocal collective action must be the solution. This is because government is the means of the collective, a collective albeit comprised of individuals but a collective just the same, to effect common policy.
Individuals conducting their own foreign policy are essentially at war with the remainder of the citizenry. If, however, the remainder agree that their government no longer represents their, the citizen's interests, they must act collectively to either change or bring down the regime, replacing it with something better.
Some ask the question: how would we know what our government is doing if it were not for leakers? But this is naive, and in any case one knows the tree by the fruit it bears. The election of men whose goal is justice will ensure a proper and functional government. Leaders who themselves are corrupt can only be expected to engage in corrupt policy, both domestic and otherwise. One need not know details in order to understand.
Posted by OldDog on 12/11/10 09:38 AM
Superb Introduction to the idiocy of Democracy without a United Commitment to Freedom from Tyranny!