ENSLAVING OURSELVES BY MAJORITY RULE
By Joel Turtel
November 20, 2005
At the end of the nineteenth century, federal taxes only absorbed about 3 percent of the national income ($6.64 per person), and state and municipal taxes added another 6 percent ($13.28 per person). There was no income tax, except a temporary one during the Civil War, until the 16th Amendment to the Constitution established this tax in 1913. The bulk of federal revenues came almost entirely from tariffs, excise taxes, and customs duties. The federal debt was small and steadily contracting. There were minor outlays for social services, and the Treasury often had a surplus.
Low taxes meant that workers or business owners kept most of their wages or profits to spend on themselves or their businesses. At the end of the nineteenth century, Americans had the right to keep what they earned. The combination of a free economy, political liberty, strict protection of property rights, and a small federal government was the spark plug that turned America into the most productive nation on Earth.
The Founding Fathers created a brilliant political structure, but they also made some serious mistakes; there were holes in the dam right from the start. Unfortunately, the Constitution gave the federal government the right to coin money, 'regulate commerce,' and 'promote the general welfare' of the nation. At the time, these phrases were strictly interpreted and government interference in the economy was minor.
But gradually those general phrases took on an ominous new meaning as the country's moral-political philosophy took a sharp turn to the left. Over the years, like a spreading malignant cancer, government's right to 'regulate commerce among the states' and 'protect the general welfare' turned into government's right to strangle our economy with hundreds of thousands of regulations, and create the Welfare State.
The dominant political doctrine ruling America today is socialism. Socialism rests on the idea that compassion is a moral and political duty, not a personal choice. Under the socialist Welfare or Entitlement State, government forces us to help others, whether we like it or not. Compassion has been turned into compulsion.
As a result, the guiding principles of our Founding Fathers have been all but forgotten. Limited government and the scrupulous protection of our property rights are just a fading memory. In their place, government is again telling us that 'society' or the collective is more important than you and I. Socialist liberals tell us that the 'public good' and the economic 'rights' of the needy are more important than our liberty.
Need, not individual rights, has become the ruling principle of our time. Government uses regulations and entitlement programs to allegedly protect the common good and create a safety net for everyone. Our government now forces us to live by Karl Marx's dogma of socialism and communism: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
That's what a welfare state is all about. And when I say welfare I don't mean simply for the poor, but for everyone. Most government subsidy, insurance, and entitlement programs are a form of welfare. Government taxes us to pay for food stamps, Medicare, bank bailouts, rent subsidies, farm subsidies, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and handouts to corporations. There's an endless list of programs that benefit every conceivable pressure group.
Three entitlement programs are the powder keg behind exploding federal deficits: Medicare, Social Security, and federal pensions. In 2005, they accounted for over 75 percent of all federal entitlements. These programs' millions of beneficiaries are not welfare recipients -- they are middle-class retirees. Almost 75 percent of federal benefits are paid with no regard to a person's financial status, and only about 17 percent of these benefits help Americans get out of poverty.
If we add up all the taxes we pay, including sales taxes, property taxes, Social Security taxes, city, state, and federal income taxes, and hundreds of business taxes passed on to consumers, we'll find that government takes anywhere from 35 percent to 50 percent of our income. In the Middle Ages, feudal lords took about 20 percent of their serfs' crops to pay for the lords' protection. The medieval serfs of Europe were taxed less than the new middle-class serfs of America.
It doesn't matter that we voted ourselves into serfdom. If government confiscates 40 percent of your salary or profits, it doesn't matter if your ruler is a dictator, a medieval lord, or the 'will of the majority.' Our Founding Fathers didn't base our government on unlimited majority rule. They had a healthy fear and scepticism about human nature, and men's lust for power. Instead, they designed a political structure to protect us against majority rule. For example, freedom of speech and religion protects us against a majority mob that may not like what we say or who we pray to. That's the purpose of the Bill of Rights and Constitution -- to protect us against the whims, greed, or stupidity of the majority.
Majority rule doesn't sanction or guarantee personal liberty. Instead, it usually violates personal liberty. A majority of the German people voted the Nazi party into office and approved most of its policies. Our own government has become dangerous precisely because it uses majority rule to justify violating our individual rights.
Our Founding Fathers would be turning over in their graves if they saw what has happened to the Republic they so carefully crafted in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They would be horrified that the monster they feared most, unlimited majority rule, has been unleashed and holds sway over our country and our future.
© 2005 Joel Turtel - All Rights
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Joel Turtel, author of Public Schools, Public Menace: How Public Schools Lie To Parents and Betray Our Children, holds a degree in Psychology. For the last ten years he has served as an Education Policy Analyst, studying the climate of today's public schools and its effect on children and parents.
Mr. Turtel has written two books, published over fifty articles, and has been interviewed in both print and broadcast media on the subject. His latest book, Public Schools, Public Menace has garnered national media attention – recently, for example, Dr. Laura Schlessinger featured the boook on her nationally syndicated radio show.
Joel Turtel is available to discuss his book Public Schools, Public Menace in the media, at conferences, or with individual groups. Be warned though, you may be shocked by the revelations he has uncovered in America's public-school system.
Majority rule doesn't sanction or guarantee personal liberty. Instead, it usually violates personal liberty. A majority of the German people voted the Nazi party into office and approved most of its policies.