I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how things are and how we got here – and I think I’ve identified the date when we went off course: September 14th, 1901. The day William McKinley died, a few days after being shot.
Take a look at this last address, made shortly before he was shot – do read the whole thing, but the bit that stands out for me is how he talks at length about the growing inter-dependence of the world while also asserting that our fair trade relations must never be done at the expense of our home production. Get it? We must trade, but we must never harm ourselves in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. This is the sort of speech we got when the President and Congress were trying to serve the interests of the American people – and they were doing what they did out in the open, debating it in public, and working strictly within the Constitutional confines of our government.
People don’t think much of McKinley and even someone as versed in history as I am only have a slight bit of knowledge about him – from a prosperous Ohio family; Civil War service, law, politics and the rise to the top. He is portrayed as unimaginative; plodding. He is entirely overshadowed by the man who succeeded him, Theodore Roosevelt, who is always cast in heroic terms…taking over and reinvigorating the American government. But I think we can see now, at long remove, that having a vigorous American government isn’t an unalloyed benefit. With a slight hiccup under Coolidge in the 1920’s, since McKinley we’ve seen the atrophy of Congressional power; an increasingly Imperial Presidency and the massive expansion of government control – and, over the long term, the imposition of policies which are overtly destructive of the United States.
Theodore Roosevelt came in and had his famous assertion that if the law doesn’t specifically prohibit a President from doing a thing, then the thing can be done. It was a gigantic shift: it started the process of having our system being that of a government with strictly enumerated powers to having a government doing whatever it can get away with. Wilson and FDR just put that attitude on steroids – so much so that even a limited government man like Reagan still blithely exercised powers that Presidents up to McKinley would never dreamed of exercising. But a government without limits is a government which not only can do anything, it will do anything – and as it will still be a government run by human beings, it will almost certainly end up doing whatever those with the most influence demand. And therein lies our problem.
Realize that today – right now – there are people, right and left, who are demanding that Trump essentially go to war with Turkey because they think it wrong that the Turks are going after the Kurds. Maybe the Turks are wrong; but if the Turks are wrong, then it isn’t for the President to decide if we fight them…or, at least, it isn’t supposed to be the President who decides if we fight: it is supposed to be Congress, which will debate a declaration of war and then vote on it…and if approved, we go to war. But, we’re so far down this road that most don’t even see that – they are so used, that is, to the government just doing things that they are demanding it just do something in Syria. And do something about climate change. And trans people. And illegal immigrants. And so on and on and on.
And think about what we’ve got: a gigantic system of treaties, alliances, agreements, laws, regulations and such which authorize this, that or the other thing and none of it is fully known, hardly any of it was really debated…and it is all in the service of doing something, nobody really knows what…but if we don’t keep things just as they are, disaster will result. Or, so we’re told.
I asserted some while back that President Trump is the most law-abiding President we’ve had since Coolidge: and I’m sure I’m right about that. I do not say the most morally excellent President – first off, I can’t peer into souls and so I’m unable to judge the status of President Trump’s; secondly, because it is irrelevant to whether or not the President obeys the law. And Trump obeys the law. The proof of that is that after years of relentlessly being investigated (often by entirely illegal means) they still haven’t found a crime they can hang around his neck. Hardly anyone could survive that scrutiny…but, Trump has. And if you look at what he says and does, he’s always acting within the law and asking Congress to codify things into law. He isn’t President Pen and Phone. I don’t know if this lawfulness is the result of deep thought on the part of the President or mere instinct – but regardless, Trump has hit upon the first requirement of liberty: adherence to law. That we can only do, via government, what the law says we can do – no more, no less and if you don’t like it, change the law via lawful means.
It is my view that a Republic must strictly enforce its laws – and because of this, the laws must be few and easy to understand; and the government must not attempt to manage the lives of the people because doing so requires a multiplicity of laws, each of which will merely increase government power along with the ability to abuse that power. We cannot, willy nilly, go back to 1901 – but we must go back to it as much as we can, and the first step is to start enforcing all the laws. The laws against illegal entry. The laws against government malfeasance. So on and so forth: it doesn’t matter if they are good or bad laws: if they are on the books, they must be strictly enforced. And it is the strict enforcement of bad laws which will ensure their repeal or modification – keeping in mind that a host of laws are on the books which routinely trip up regular folks and they are kept because they aren’t allowed to trip up the Ruling Class…start having people like Hillary going to jail like a poor swabby who took a wrong picture and all of a sudden our Rulers will be less interested in keeping laws like that on the books.
The next part of a restoration should be, in my view, a disentangling of the United States from the world. We can be an Empire or a Republic: we can’t be both. NATO has to go. The UN has to go. Free Trade has to go – I am going to write up about what McKinley was talking up: Trade Reciprocity, which I think that Trump is on about. I want us to trade with the world – but only in ways that are mutually beneficial. Bring our boys and girls back home. Maintain a second-to-none military force in being. Advise the world that an attack upon the United States is a suicidal act – and then destroy the first nation which tests us on it. If we have alliances, they are to be temporary and serving a particular national goal. No more CIA. No more NSA. No more FBI. Relations with tyrannical States to be kept to a minimum (tyranny and liberty cannot really coexist).
It is time – past time – that we gave up the goals of those who don’t have our interests at heart. This is our country – it is made by us and for us. It is not a world police, nor a dumping ground for the world’s refuse. It is a place where free people debate among themselves and decide via law what course to follow. It is time, that is, for America to be America.