Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dis’ed the U.S. Constitution, telling Egyptians on Al-Hayat MEMRI TV, “I would not look to the US constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” This aired Jan. 30, 2012. Listen to her comments in context at: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3295.htm. Here is what troubles me about Ginsburg’s short-sighted statements. Her words represent how many of the elite actually are throwing out the proverbial “baby of our basic freedoms” with the “bath water of our esteemed traditions.” She says she esteems a government of, by and for the people, yet disparages what in her own words is the oldest and most enduring legacy that has achieved those ends for us little guys and gals– the U.S. Constitution.
I was raised poor, and have spent a good share of my adult life fighting to help people out of poverty. As a veteran of the army, I believe there is a reason why America used to fight wars to free people from the control of the elite who use government power to serve themselves at he expense of “we the people.”
I am thankful for growing up in America, and have worked very hard and very successfully at ensuring that those who deserve good education, opportunity and even reasonable government entitlements obtain them. As a high school English teacher, I worked diligently so that 90% of my students passed Regents exams each year. I also am the former New York state veterans advocate who represented a female veteran of the Korean era who obtained the largest retroactive VA award in my state’s history. I also am not against Social Security for Americans who have paid into that system for themselves and their beneficiaries. I also support welfare as a safety net, but I believe people should aspire to more than that as a way of life.
I do not agree with class warfare, for we all are Americans. Some are not less deserving of protection under the law just because they are rich. You want to leave your home and possessions to your children. It is wrong for the government to take that from them. Are any of you planning on aiming for a low level of lifestyle and achievement, so the rules some want for the rich won’t apply to you? I now am fighting so our children and our grand children will not reap the outcomes of the destruction that is being done to the foundations that as Americans we are one nation under God, from whom our basic rights extend. I teach a program called The Divine Decalogue for Dynamic Decency that presents God’s Ten Commandments in positive paraphrases that highlight the rights we derive from them. For example, Command number six says, “You have the right not to be murdered.” Command number seven says, “You have the right not to be stolen from nor to have government improperly seize your property.”
Every government issue I have a problem with is traced to a violation of one of the Ten Commandments. Breaking them becomes a sliding scale of justifications of continually increasingly bad behaviors that warp those who participate in them as well as demonize, victimize and repress those who are on the receiving end of the bad behaviors. Failure for each of us to self-govern under those Commandments leads to the enslavement of us all, as we all will be subject to increasingly repressive levels of control to protect us from each other. Ben Franklin, among others warned us what would happens to people who exchange liberty for security. We end up with neither.
My Problem with the Oligarchy
At what rate of taxation does it become confiscation of property by a Marxist-Fascist style government determined to erode private property rights? If I say one thing in a way that resonates with those who want to support the poor (such as “I am going to redistribute wealth to the poor”) but I actually do another (like keep everyone mollified on the same low level of welfare, but give billions to my friends at Solyndra, Fisker, Ener1/EnerDel ) then “we the people” are being had (and our children and grandchildren are being bankrupted).
I do not believe that any of the wealthy, who have a secret handshake with the government, such as Jeffery Immelt at GE, is going to pay anymore taxes tomorrow than they are paying today. Look at what is happening to Gibson Guitars, (http://on.wsj.com/zhcFi0) and (http://bit.ly/xGYIgQ) when it can be demonstrated that Martin Guitars does the same thing (http://bit.ly/yDEodi). Look at how many corporations and unions have gotten waivers from the national health care law. We now have some Americans subject to certain laws, and those who have a secret handshake with the government being able to be exempt.
The Quest for Freedom and Fairness
America is a constitutional republic — meaning a nation wherein everyone from the President to teenagers and kids are supposed to obey the same laws. In oligarchies the elite are exempt from the laws the people are required to live by. When both republicans and democrats in congress engage in insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail, we have elected elites operating within an oligarchy. Just because they say they want to support the poor, and they do throw us welfare bones, we must be conscious of what actually is undermining our ability to be an upwardly mobile society in a level (not perfect) playing field of competition in which there definitely will be some successes and failures. Jesus said, by their fruits (not their rhetoric) ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:20)
Oligarchies, in contrast to their promises, are not the fair systems they claim to be. Oligarchies guarantee failure for everyone who does not have a secret handshake with, or belong to the inner circle of, the political party controlling the government. Some people I know who recently got back from China are scratching their heads questioning how the centralized planning of such a “well-meaning” and supposedly “noble” socialist system has created a nation of falling down buildings, uninhabited cities where no one wants to live, and to which literally millions of people now are being driven from farms where they were self-sufficient, and are being reassigned as “street sweepers” and municipal workers in what rapidly have become enforced congested urban environments. (This is not to indicate that those professions are negative in and of themselves, when one is free to chose them.)
Over the past 40 years, about 50% of all Americans born poor have been able to be upwardly mobile to advance into the middle classes, because most Americans when free to choose how to make a living innovate goods and services others enjoy and willing pay a profit to obtain. The economic freedom gives more of us more access to better jobs with pay raises as businesses bid and compete for labor by paying competitive salaries and benefits. Just because there are a few bad employers out there, doesn’t mean the entire system needs fundamental or radical change that despite rhetoric only benefits a few at the expense of the many.
We all really need to live by “Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12) This is especially true of the elite who want to control something as big and powerful, and prone to missteps and abuses as the governments of this world. Ginsberg may denigrate the American Constitution, but I don’t see her fleeing this nation to go live in any of the places whose constitution she says she esteems. The reality of the matter is that if we do what other nations do, we will get what other nations are getting, and equally significant, we will not get the freedoms that their repressive elite leaders are denying the people. It may sound erudite, progressive and of keen whit to disparage the U.S. Constitution. The alternatives, however, do not produce the utopia Ginsberg’s unrealistic thinking imagines, but instead will make us like “the onerous dictator-ruled, chaotic oligarchies of the world,” as opposed to what we have enjoyed as “The United States of America.” People like Ginsburg may do okay in those other systems, but the realities for the rest of us, regardless of how well-meaning, really are not fair.
Earl C. Wallace is author of
The Three-Dimensional Leader: Negotiating Your Mission, Resources and Context.
Visit his web page at www.ThreeDimensionalLeader.com and review other insights on his Three-Dimensional Leadership Blogs.