About Me

In writing the "About Me" portion of this blog I thought about the purpose of the blog - namely, preventing the growth of Socialism & stopping the Death Of Democracy in the American Republic & returning her to the "liberty to abundance" stage of our history. One word descriptions of people's philosophies or purposes are quite often inadequate. I feel that I am "liberal" meaning that I am broad minded, independent, generous, hospitable, & magnanimous. Under these terms "liberal" is a perfectly good word that has been corrupted over the years to mean the person is a left-winger or as Mark Levin more accurately wrote in his book "Liberty & Tyranny" a "statist" - someone looking for government or state control of society. I am certainly not that & have dedicated the blog to fighting this. I believe that I find what I am when I consider whether or not I am a "conservative" & specifically when I ask what is it that I am trying to conserve? It is the libertarian principles that America was founded upon & originally followed. That is the Return To Excellence that this blog is named for & is all about.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Surveys Point To Dreadful Understanding Of The Constitution

The anniversary of the signing of our glorious Constitution 230 years ago this past Sunday brought out, among other things, several surveys conducted to find out just what people know about the Constitution.  The two most noted surveys that came to my attention were conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center Of The University of Pennsylvania that surveyed 1013 adults & the Brookings Institute that surveyed 1,500 college undergraduates.
The Annenberg survey aptly carried the online headline Americans Are Poorly Informed About Basic Constitutional Provisions & reported that more than a third of the adults surveyed (37%) could not name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment & only a quarter (26%) could name all three branches of government.
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Only 48% of respondents could name freedom of speech as a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, but unprompted, 37% could not name any First Amendment right.  Naming the other four First Amendment rights dropped off fast as indicated on the above graph.
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Just a little over a quarter of respondents (26%) could name the three branches of government (legislative, executive, & judicial).  This is a drop from the 2011 Annenberg survey when 38% could name all three.  One third of respondents could not name any of the three branches.
The Brookings Institute survey of 1,500 current undergraduate students @ U.S. four-year colleges & universities had a geographically diverse population with respondents from 49 states & DC.
John Villasenor, the author of the Brookings survey, wrote "Freedom of expression is deeply imperiled on U.S. campuses.  In fact, despite protestations to the contrary (often with statements like 'we fully support the First Amendment, but . . .'), freedom of expression is clearly not, in practice, available on many campuses, including many public campuses that have First Amendment obligations."  You don't need a physical Antifa presence on every campus to enforce the politically correct mindset that doesn't understand the liberties Americans are losing.
Some specifics, in percentage of respondents, from the Brookings survey – questions presented in italics:
Does the First Amendment protect "hate speech"?
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Yes 39 39 44 40 38 43 31 51
No 44 41 39 44 44 44 49 38
Don't know 16 15 17 17 17 13 21 11
Fewer than half of the respondents in the above table in all three political affiliations correctly believe that hate speech is constitutionally protected. 
A student group opposed to a speaker (known for making offensive & hurtful statements) disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker. Do you agree or disagree that the student group's actions are acceptable?
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Agree 51 62 39 45 51 51 47 57
Disagree 49 38 61 55 49 49 53 43
The numbers in the above table indicate that a large percentage of students believe it is OK to silence a speaker they find offensive by shouting him off the stage.  The next question escalates the matter.
A student group opposed to the speaker uses violence to prevent the speaker from speaking. Do you agree or disagree that the student group's actions are acceptable?
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Agree 19 20 22 16 18 21 10 30
Disagree 81 80 78 84 82 79 90 70
Having ten to thirty percent of respondents being OK with violence to silence a speaker is a good barometer of the state of the campus today.
Consider an event, hosted at a public U.S. university by an on-campus organization, featuring a speaker known for making statements that many students consider to be offensive and hurtful. A student group opposed to the speaker issues a statement saying that, under the First Amendment, the on-campus organization hosting the event is legally required to ensure that the event includes not only the offensive speaker but also a speaker who presents an opposing view. What is your view on the student group's statement?
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Agree 62 65 62 58 63 60 60 66
Disagree 38 35 38 42 37 40 40 34
Of course the First Amendment does not require any such requirement.  The majority of students may be thinking about good event design in their answers but that has nothing to do with the First Amendment.
In summary, & no surprise to regular readers of RTE, the above results of both the Annenberg survey & the Brookings Institute survey were dreadful & offer very little hope for turning around the intellectually inept politically correct mindset that has gripped the country. 
Adults in the Annenberg survey knew nothing about the Constitution itself & a far too large number of students in the Brookings survey see nothing wrong with stifling another's point of view with shouting &/or violence while thinking they should be protected from hate speech as they define the term.
"Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are."  - Kathleen Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Center.  And of course many of the combined 2513 people from the two surveys were clueless on this point as indicated above.
Judge for yourself whether the above survey results indicate that America is tending toward socialism, communism, Marxism, fascism or something else; but the survey results, when coupled with recent violent demonstrations across America, point to us being in jeopardy of throwing away the libertarian principles the country was founded on that have produced the greatest wealth & standard of living in human history.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Constitution - After 230 Years - Still Provides The Path To Prosperity

"A republic, madam, if you can keep it" was Benjamin Franklin's reply to Elizabeth Powell's question @ the end of the Constitutional Convention about what sort of government the delegates of the Convention had created on September 17, 1787 – 230 years ago today. 
The final vote of the states represented @ the Convention in favor of the Constitution was unanimous, 11 – 0.  Rhode Island never attended because it rightfully feared monetary reform would end its prolific paper money practices & New York did not have a quorum because the anti-federalists in the NY delegation had left in disgust – although Alexander Hamilton signed the Constitution as NY's lone delegate. 
The Constitution was then sent by the Confederation Congress to the state legislatures, who in turn sent it to their respective state ratifying conventions.  The Constitution became effective for the ratifying states when the delegates of nine of those state conventions ratified the Constitution.
The excitement regarding the disagreements & heated arguments that existed during the Constitutional Convention continued throughout the ratification process – principally in the form of a series of essays written in local newspapers that collectively are known today as the Federalist Papers & the opposing Anti-Federalist Papers.  Today these essays are studied in college history classes as extraordinary intellectual explanations of the two competing visions of America that mainly melded into one when the Bill Of Rights was added to the Constitution in 1791.  But to put the essays in the context in which they were written is to understand they were the instruments federalists used in trying to convince anti-federalists of the validity of the new Constitution & vice versa.
The tabulation below shows the Constitution became binding on nine states on June 21, 1788 thereby becoming the law of the land without the concurrence of Virginia or New York – the two biggest states that argued during both the Constitutional Convention & the ratification process. 
All of the Federalist Papers had been addressed "To the People of the State of New York" & the closeness of the vote below in NY indicates why.  NY was Alexander Hamilton's home state - he supervised the writing of the Federalist Papers & enlisted the help of his fellow participants James Madison & John Jay – Hamilton wrote 51, Madison 29, & Jay 5 of the 85 essays. 
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Even as a young army officer in 1780, & even before the Articles of Confederation had been ratified, Alexander Hamilton was thinking about improvements to the Articles of Confederation.  Hamilton had even gone as far as proposing a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation to include his ideas – this convention turned out to be the Constitutional Convention from which the Constitution of the United States was written, & upon ratification, replaced the Articles of Confederation as the supreme law of the land.
Starting on May 25, 1787 when all states except Rhode Island were represented, & running through September 17, 1787 the debates & exchanges of ideas were held in the building that today is known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  Toward the end of the Convention a Committee of Style & Arrangement was selected to write the new Constitution.  Its members were Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, Rufus King, William Samuel Johnson, & Alexander Hamilton.
President George Washington's first cabinet nomination was Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury – & it took mere minutes for Congress to unanimously approve Hamilton's nomination.
This was all Hamilton needed to get his high energy started to implement his vision of almost ten years before - not of America being a southern agrarian society & the North being a separate industrial commercial society but rather a vision where the South's products were sent to the North as raw materials for incorporation into final products thereby linking & maximizing the synergy of both regions of the country.  Hamilton's idea was that the agrarian interests of the South would be advanced by the Northern manufacturers & that both would be equally productive.
In making a realty of his vision Hamilton became the founder of the nation's financial system.  In essence he gave us capitalism – a word that did not yet exist in his time.  See graph below.
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The Constitution was conceived in liberty with the purpose of protecting our God-given individual rights to life & liberty from which flows the pursuit of happiness & property rights.
Ayn Rand put it this way – "If one wishes to advocate a free society - that is, capitalism - one must realize that its indispensable foundation is the principle of individual rights. If one wishes to uphold individual rights, one must realize that capitalism is the only system that can uphold & protect them."
Below are the key clauses of the Constitution, a document that Hamilton was so instrumental in creating, that he used in creating the American capitalistic system that is still the envy of the world (terms in italics refer to clauses of the Constitution):
1.  No state shall make any Thing but gold & silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.  Hamilton, as were all of the Founders, was quite familiar with the term "not worth a Continental" that referred to the utter worthlessness of the paper dollars, unlinked to gold or silver, that the Continental Congress printed to pay for the Revolutionary War.  Hamilton's principles regarding sound money were adopted in the Coinage Act of 1792 & the creation of the U.S. Mint To coin money, regulate the Value thereof, & of foreign Coin, & fix the Standard of Weights & Measures.  There was to be a ten-dollar Gold Eagle coin, a silver dollar, & fractional money ranging from one-half to fifty cents.  Except for times of war the price of gold stayed in the $20 per troy ounce range from 1792 until 1933 when FDR devalued it – see graph below.  Hamilton issued a bimetallic currency @ a fixed ratio of 15:1 silver to gold.
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2.  To raise revenue for the federal government, including covering the full debt of both Congress & the states incurred during the Revolutionary War, the Constitution specifies that The Congress shall have the Power To lay & collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, & Excises . . . but all Duties, Imposts, & Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States . . . & that No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken. 
The direct taxes were expected to be used only in emergencies & even then the formula to determine an unchallenged apportionment  scheme would be difficult – in short, the Founders did not favor direct taxes – like an income tax.
The indirect taxes, were all consumption taxes, & did not lend themselves easily to congressional abuse because if the rates were raised too high, fewer taxed goods would be bought & revenue would decrease.  Hamilton described this as "the nature of the thing" in The Federalist No. 21.
BTW - A consumption tax, the type of tax favored by our Founders, is the source of revenue of today's FairTax legislation, HR 25.  If you are ever asked what country ever used a broad based sales or consumption tax to fund their central government you can quickly reply "America from the time of the founding of our constitutional republic until 1913."  Our Founders used tariffs & excise taxes to fund the government.  Tariffs are a form of user fees & today they are used to negotiate reciprocal reductions in U.S. & foreign tariffs.  Consumption taxes are by definition a form of excise taxes.  Consumption taxes include retail sales taxes, excise taxes, use taxes, & import duties.
3.  To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, & among the several States, & with the Indian Tribes meant that all efforts should be to encourage commerce.  Judge Napolitano has explained that in the 18th century the word "regulate" meant "to make regular."  In writing the Commerce Clause the Founders captured Montesquieu's thought – "To sustain the spirit of commerce, it is necessary that all the laws should favor it."
The Federalist No. 11: Hamilton – "The unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will advance the trade of each, by an interchange of their respective productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants @ home, but for exportation to foreign markets.  The veins of commerce in every part will be replenished, & will acquire additional motion & vigor from a free circulation of the commodities of every part.  Commercial enterprise will have much greater scope, from the diversity in the production of different States." 
Federalist 11 also talked about "The importance of the Union, in a commercial light . . . the adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of America . . . look forward, to what this country is capable of becoming . . . soar to a dangerous greatness . . ." & "Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict & indissoluble union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the control of all trans-atlantic force or influence, & able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old & the new world!"
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4.  No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.  Although Washington, Madison, & Hamilton favored taxes on state exports during the Constitutional Convention, citing the South's disproportionate need for naval protection that would be paid for by the export taxes, the free flow of materials from one state to another greatly enhanced commerce & the economic growth of the country. 
The Export Taxation Clause of the Constitution is related to NY's original intransigence against the Constitution.  NY had flourished under the Articles of Confederation by imposing taxes on goods passing through its booming harbor & issuing paper money that held its value; hence much of NY did not want to rock the boat & change a successful arrangement.  But some New Yorkers saw even greater prosperity under the constitutional republic & that position carried the day when NY became the 11th state to ratify the Constitution by a vote of 30 to 27.
5.  Congress shall have the Power To . . . provide for the general Welfare of the United States was a clause originally used by Alexander Hamilton, some Congresses, & most presidents up to the Civil War as an additional limitation on the Constitution's enumerated powers rather than an open ended permission to redistribute wealth – a position I recently presented on national TV on the Brett Winterble Show on Newsmax TV.  President James Monroe had this understanding during his presidency, known as the "Era of Good Feelings", & explained that Congress's power "to spend was restricted to purposes of common defense, & of general, national, not local, or state, benefit."  Accordingly, government spending was held down during America's liberty to abundance stage & that greatly enhanced our fortunes on the road to prosperity.
President Washington had three main objectives for America & his administration under the Constitution – 1) respect abroad, 2) prosperity @ home, & 3) development westward.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward Larson writes regarding Washington's above objectives – "Toward these ends, he envisioned a vigorous federal government encouraging trade, manufacturing, & agriculture through effective tariffs, sound money, secure property rights, & a nonaligned foreign policy."
This post demonstrates how Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton followed the Constitution to implement President Washington's vision for America.
But the enemies of America, both foreign & domestic, are enormous in number & America's libertarian principles defined in our Constitution come under assault more frequently every day making one wonder, like Dr. Franklin did 230 years ago today, just how long can we keep our constitutional republic?