Words Have Meaning: Founder's Edition

I've been working on a major project for the past several months.  We are getting close to being able to launch and when we do, I'll share a lot more information about it with you.  But, one of the pieces to this project had me digging through the thoughts and ideas the Founding Fathers had; their vision for this nation, their hopes for these future generations.  The more I looked at what they said, the more obvious it became that we have strayed from their original vision.  Look at all of the problems in America today, and I believe the reason those things aren't working right is because our actions don't match the words that created this country in the first place.   The economy, crime, the budget, education.  It's all dysfunctional today because we aren't running America the way it was intended.  

If you have a gasoline engine and you put diesel into the tank, it's not going to work right.  Right?  Well, we've been given this engine, I call it the Liberty Engine, and we aren't putting the right fuel into it anymore.  No wonder things are sputtering.  Let me give you some specific examples of how the words said by our Founders don't match the actions taken by Americans today.

Let's start with two quotes that are basically on the same topic from two of our most famous Founders, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.  First, Patrick Henry.  He was the first Governor of Virginia and was the same man who famously said, "Give me Liberty or give me death."  Eventually he got both.  But, there's another line from him I want to focus on.  He was arguing for the ratification of the Constitution by the state of Virginia when he said this. 

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
— Patrick Henry

We have gotten away from that idea.  The government now dominates your life.  Some of you may not recognize that because for most of our lifetimes, government has been a constant pressure.  Just like you don't feel the force of gravity pulling you down doesn't meant that gravity doesn't exist.  You just don't notice it because you are used to it.  But our lives are dominated by the government to an extent the Founders never planned.  The sheer volume of regulations, the number of government employees, the loopholes and red tape you have to navigate just to be able to do things like own property or set up a business.  Can you think of anything you do that isn't regulated by government?  Watching TV.  Regulated by the government.  Turning on the air conditioning.  Regulated by the government.  The government has restrained you in most aspects of your life and that is the exact opposite of what the founders had in mind.  

At the same time, the restrictions that were placed on the people in government are being weakened.  Through executive orders like Obama's amnesty plan and bad decisions made in the courts, those restrictions the Founders placed on government are being ignored, or worse, altered by the individuals in the government itself.  That leads to the second quote.  It's from Thomas Jefferson.    

In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
— Thomas Jefferson

Again, the Founders were very much trying to restrict the government and the people in government, but, we haven't been vigilant in protecting that idea.  As a result, the legislative branch has given power to the executive branch to make rules and regulations that don't have to be authorized by Congress.  How did the IRS get away with targeting political opponents?  Because the IRS got to write its own regulations, not Congress.  People who might have been thought to have good character, people who we might have had confidence in abused their power.  They have gotten away with it because our government isn't operating the way it was designed.  It's operating on the principle of what it can get away with, not what it's role should be.

Let's move onto a quote from Ben Franklin.  In his writings he said this.

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth, I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided from themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.
— Benjamin Franklin

Franklin knew something about poverty himself.  He left home at the age of 13 and never looked back.  He didn't live off of family money.  He climbed his way up from the very bottom rung.  

If you look at America today, we have 46.7 million people below the poverty line.  That's the most ever.  As a percentage basis, it's about 15% of the population.  Before Lyndon Johnson started his War on Poverty in the 1960s, the poverty rate was falling steadily.  It had been about 25% when Eisenhower took office.  It was down to around 13% when LBJ passed the Great Society programs including Welfare and Medicaid.  LBJ made the poor more comfortable in their poverty.  But, he didn't actually bring people out of poverty.  The poverty rate has been bouncing around 10 to 15 percent ever since with our current rate being higher than it was when the Great Society programs were first proposed.  There are no provisions in the Constitution for how to help the poor.  It's not mentioned in there anywhere.  That's because the Founders didn't think that was a job for the federal government.  Today we think it is, and as a result, we haven't been able to reduce poverty at all.  It's actually going to other way.  Ben Franklin's words had meaning.  We should follow them.

So, how have we gotten so far away from those original plans for America.  This next quote gives a good explanation.  It's from Samuel Adams, the cousin of our first Vice President and Second President, John Adams.  Yes, that's the same Sam Adams the beer is named after.  Here's what he said.  

How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain meaning of Words.
— Samuel Adams

The tools of a tyrant will pervert the plain meaning of words.  That's why you hear me say on my podcasts over and over that, "Words have meaning."  

When you start to change the meaning of words, you are engaging in tyranny.  So, when our current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court says that Obamacare is Constitutional because the word "fine" actually means "tax" even though the legislators who passed the law insisted the word "fine" didn't mean "tax," then he was engaging in tyranny.   He was acting Like a tyrant, not a jurist.  When he did it again to say that Obamacare was still constitutional because the words "exchange established by the states" meant "exchange established by the states or federal government", then he was perverting the plain meaning of words.  He was acting like a tyrant, not a jurist.  

When our top judges act like tyrants, we lose freedom.  All of us.  Each one of us.  You have been personally injured because of Obamacare.  It has raised both the cost of your healthcare and the cost of your healthcare insurance while reducing your choices of doctors or hospitals.  You have been hurt by this law, and it should never have been passed because it was unconstitutional in the first place.  Then, once it was passed, it should have been struck down.  Unfortunately, the tyrants in power changed the plain meaning of words.  Samuel Adams, one of our founding fathers, warned us against this.  We have all ignored his warning.  Why?  Because we didn't know about it.  Honestly.  You never heard that quote before, did you?  Why not?  Because we ignored this next quote as well.

This one comes from Noah Webster, yes, the guy who wrote the dictionary.  He was also a lawyer and a political writer.  Here's what he said.

Every child in America should be aquatinted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.
— Noah Webster

We obviously don't do that.  If you think we do, just look up videos on YouTube from Jay Leno or Jesse Waters or Mark Dice.  The average person knows almost nothing about American history.  They not only have never heard these quotes, but they think the American Revolution ended slavery.  (In case you were wondering, no it did not.)  And that's the average person.  By definition, half of America is less informed than that.  

So, how have we strayed so far from the way America was founded, from how our nation was designed to work?  Simply, we looked the other way.  We were chasing Pokemon or keeping up with the Kardashians or managing our fantasy football team or recovering from Pac Man Fever or doing the Hustle or learning to hula hoop or whatever other distracting fad that came along. And while we were looking for our secret decoder rings, tyrants were changing the meanings of plain words.  As a result, the Constitution, which was designed to tie down government, has instead tied us up in red tape, and bureaucracy, and yes, tyranny.

I said at the top of this post that we aren't putting the right fuel into this Liberty Engine and that's why it's not working anymore.  Here's one more Founding Father who dives that idea home.  You've probably heard of him because of that new Broadway hit and because he's on your ten dollar bill.  Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury.

A sacred respect for the Constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government.
— Alexander Hamilton


That respect for the Constitution and its purpose is the fuel America should be running on.  It's not.  The people we have elected as our leaders do not feel properly restrained by the constitution.  They have instead operated on the principle that the only things that are unconstitutional are the things they can't get actually get away with.  And, the less we pay attention, the less we know about how this nation was designed to work in the first place, the more they can get away with.  Our freedoms diminish.  Our futures dim.  And tyranny grows like black mold in the dark corners of our home, America.  

I hope if you are reading these posts or listening to my podcasts that you will make a commitment to learn more about why America was founded and how it's supposed to work.  Seek out that wisdom the first generation of Americans possessed and apply It to these latest generations.  Teach yourself, then teach your family, and require the men and women you vote for to be held to those standards established in the first days of our nation.  Don't let them change the plain meaning of words because words have meaning.