Tag Archives: Barack Obama

For Perspective on the Government Shutdown, Look to Washington — The Man, Not the City

Ramirez Founding Father's DayGeorge Washington was a model of civility and selfless dedication to his new nation. An article in today’s on-line edition of the Christian Science Monitor reminds us that lawmakers could use a reminder or two about how our first president dealt with the contentious issues in the first federal government.

” … As in war so in peace, the stoic leader kept his civility and self-restraint, always seeking a greater good while finding a way to give political opponents a way to save face,” writes the Monitor‘s editorial board. “His actions often spoke loudly, such as when he did not seek a third term. He thus set a precedent on the peaceful transfer of power in a democracy and in sending a signal that the country should not put too much stock in one person.”

Perhaps President Obama could improve things by not putting so much stock in one person, namely himself. He could walk away from his adamant refusal to negotiate with his political opposition. Democrats and Republicans could then at least toy with the idea of discussing compromises that could resolve a situation that is an embarrassment to the citizens of this nation, once considered an example of working democracy to the rest of the globe.

Or, perhaps the president and key leaders in Congress could meet at Mount Vernon, Washington’s home. His new presidential library recently opened a leadership institute for the training of civic leaders. All parties could benefit from a refresher course.

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For Mr. Lincoln, “Created Equal” in the Declaration Meant the Right to Earn Your Keep

Once after a particularly grueling and disappointing track and field meet, a young son sat silently during the ride home in the pick-up truck of his history teacher father. “What’s the matter?” the father inquired. “Jefferson lied, Dad,” the boy replied grimly. “All men are not created equal.”

Thomas Jefferson and the various shapers of the Declaration of Independence did not mean that humankind is born with equal gifts, talents, and abilities. As the young athlete discovered, that kind of utopian world does not exist in a shot-put pit – or anywhere else in life if the observer is willing to exercise his or her common sense while analyzing the question of equality.

Yet, today the meaning of equality has become something quite different than the one espoused in the Declaration. For example,

President Obama: According to his Second Inaugural Address, equality will be achieved through "collective action."

President Obama: According to his Second Inaugural Address, equality will be achieved through “collective action.”

none other than President Barack Obama in his second inaugural address declared that equality, an idea that he considers “the most evident of truths,” means “preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action,” and that “progress does not compel us to settle centuries-old debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.” Since then, the president has repeatedly made comments indicating he remains dedicated to those definitions. Both are interesting ideas worthy of debate, but they are hardly illuminating when it comes to understanding what equality in the United States evidently means. The scope of results based on President Obama’s vague formula could range from a society free of any social, political, or economic barriers to the politician’s idea of equality i.e. equal opportunity to bless your constituents with favors and federal programs.

We need a better standard. That standard can be found in the life and words of Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the greatest proponent of the Declaration of Independence.  Lincoln has been called one our nation’s greatest citizens because of how his words unite us. President Obama twice swore his oath of office on Mr. Lincoln’s copy of the Bible; school children still learn the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address.  He is the source of our most soaring rhetoric about the nation’s purpose and the political intentions of the Founders. Furthermore, Lincoln wrote and spoke frequently not only about the human rights contained in the Declaration but also the economic rights described in the document that became embodied in a nation that celebrates the individual, not the collective – what he called “the right to rise.” Today, we would call it the right to do everything legal and moral to earn a living, keep profits, and choose how our economic future could play out for the best.

One of the statements in the Declaration that Lincoln turned to repeatedly was the most familiar one: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Obviously, he applied that belief to the question of slavery in America, saying that any denial that the phrase applied to blacks was a denial of the plain language that Jefferson wrote.  However, Lincoln even went on to say that denying that truth and its application to black Americans was more than a lie – it was the extinguishing of the moral light that guided the nation. If all men are created equal, they cannot be property. You cannot set a house free or a horse free through a sales transaction. Only humans can be released from slavery, and the Declaration clearly applied to men. He strenuously maintained any other interpretation was either ignorant or dishonest.

  

Lincoln: Equality is the right to live in a nation that allows the individual to run "the race of life."

Lincoln: Equality is the right to live in a nation that allows the individual to run “the race of life.”

 However, Lincoln also deeply believed Jefferson’s essential statement made America a land where even the poorest citizen could have a better life because he or she could pursue happiness. Real freedom is found when the government of this nation allows its people to win what he called “the race of life” because they have the freedom to run the race (the pursuit of happiness) as they choose. In Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream, historian Gabor S. Boritt examined Lincoln’s economic vision and determined that economic opportunity was one of the unifying themes of Lincoln’s public career from his first campaigns for the Illinois legislature to his presidency. Remember, Lincoln was a man who had escaped grinding poverty in his youth through self-improvement and opportunity, therefore government had a moral obligation to protect liberty so people (particularly the poor) possessed ample opportunity to rise as far as talent and ambition could take them. Even Lincoln’s moral opposition to slavery had an economic message, for slavery was not only wrong because it stole the God-given right of human freedom, but it made the slave-holder dependent on a government that enforced slavery rather than the noble institution of free labor, which is based on men who governed their own destiny. Using words that any self-made business owner would understand, Lincoln once said,“The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way to all—gives hope to all, and consequent energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all.” – a way that would only remain open only if government was dedicated to maintaining a clear path for opportunity through “the pursuit of happiness.”

In fact, Lincoln believed that economic improvement would be one of the chief blessings of freeing enslaved Americans, saying,

“So while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else. When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his condition; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor, for his whole life. I am not ashamed to confess that twenty five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat-boat—just what might happen to any poor man’s son! I want every man to have the chance — and I believe a black man is entitled to it — in which he can better his condition — when he may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true system.”

Like the Founding generation, Lincoln believed a government that stifled economic liberty was just as unjust as a government that denied political liberty. There was more to Abraham Lincoln than crass materialism, but the man clearly believed that Jefferson’s promise of equality, manifested in a free government, meant the opportunity to rise in life. “It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations,” Lincoln told a group of Union soldiers in the 166th Ohio Regiment a little more than a month after the Battle of Gettysburg.  Few American since the Revolution have understood the full dimension of the links between liberty, freedom, equality, and opportunity expressed in the Declaration of Independence as Abraham Lincoln. “The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate,” Lincoln wrote in 1861. “Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity. No oppressed people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.” No wonder Lincoln had the strength during this nation’s worst crisis to transform a bloody civil war into a quest for a new birth of freedom that would provide an enslaved people political and economic opportunity on par with free whites.

James Parton, the nation’s first professional biographer, described the significance of Jefferson’s words in the Declaration succinctly: “If Jefferson was wrong, America is wrong. If Jefferson is right, America is right.” More than 230 years have passed since Jefferson wrote the statement that defined the meaning of the United States. Since then, there has been much debate whether the ideas that formed this nation are as important as claimed by others in our nation’s past. (Even Lincoln once raised the question of the whether the United States could have come into being without the Declaration.) That is in realm of counterfactual speculation, but it is certain the United States would not have been the same without it. The Declaration became a source of liberty and freedom for those who run the race of life as individuals, not as a herd.  It remains the best source for those priceless national qualities. Millions of this nation’s past citizens clinged to its promises; millions continue to use it as the measure of whether the United States lives up to its promises. Historians have not always embraced that self-evident truth, a decision fraught with more than academic consequences. As the historian David Hackett Fischer points out, scholars who deny the expansion of liberty and freedom in the United States are dooming themselves to irrelevance. Liberty and freedom are the central ideas in United States, and without those ideas we doom ourselves and our nation to irrelevance.   We must never forget that the nation was founded on deeply held conviction regarding the equal chance to run the race of life and do our best to rise as far as talent and hard work will take us. For all their flaws, contradictions, high-minded ideals and coarse failures, Jefferson, the other Founders, and Lincoln were right. America was right, and our ideas not only matter, but they give our nation life. We measure ourselves by a standard set by a man who transcended his flaws because someday reason would prevail and the United States would recognize all the rich and full implications of the phrase, “All men are created equal.” Like Lincoln, we should never have a feeling that does not spring politically and economically from the Declaration of Independence.

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Happy Founding Fathers’ Day

Ramirez Founding Father's DayFrom two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez comes a cartoon too puckishly delightful to ignore on a day like today. Whether you are honoring a father of our country or the father that made your life possible, enjoy your Father’s Day.

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Secession without Aggression? Acts Speak Louder Than Words When It Comes To Independence

A fascinating post-election phenomena is developing in dozens of U.S. states.  Using a White House Web site established to acknowledge citizen petitions, proponents for peaceful secession from the United States have collected tens of thousands of signatures backing their call for an exit from the United States of America. According to the White House’s own rules regarding Internet petitions at the “We The People” site, as soon as a petition acquires 25,000 signatures the executive branch must assign staff from the Obama administration to look into the matter. So far, Texas is the first state to gain more than the required 25,000 signatures. (At this writing, the number of petitioners topped 45,000. Yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement saying that Texas will not secede from the Union.) Other states include Oregon, Montana, New Jersey, New York and the Dakotas. Support is running strong for petitions in states of the American South, as well.

Two ideas unite these secession petitions.  First, the writers are convinced that the re-election of President Barack Obama heralds the end of constitutional government because of his presumed agenda of pushing forward with the massive healthcare program that will emerge from the Affordable Healthcare Act and other examples of “big government” policies that will continue to expand the scope and power of the federal government. Secondly, the language of the petitions frequently contains rationale based on the language and the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, including the Lockean idea of just resistance and revolution and the implied natural law theory that positive action (the ability to do something independent of authority) are some of the hallmarks of liberty. Whether the proponents of seccession are students of the Declaration, sore losers  after a contentious presidential election season, or dangerous radicals will no doubt be judged more by the eye of the beholder than through cool analysis.

But I will offer an effort at dispassionate analysis out of sheer fascination with what is unfolding. Whatever one thinks of the proponents’ politics (be they Tea Party, libertarian, or simply individuals who despise President Obama) the volume of support for the petitions is astounding. Perhaps it takes as much political thought to sign an Internet petition as it does to “friend” someone on Facebook, but the fact remains nearly half a million Americans as of this writing have signed a petition calling for the dissolution of the United States through peaceful secession. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was successful in its efforts with fewer supporters in Tsarist Russia. Actual secession is probably not the goal so much as the effort to turn the tables on the administration in an embarrassing fashion and use their own program against them. Also, so far the White House has not assigned staff to examine even the Texas petition despite the stated policy that the executive branch will address an issue once the threshold of 25,000 signatures is reached.

However, what is also obvious is something that has marked the 21st Century’s “radical Republicans” and consternated conservatives: They know their American civics and political history, including the contents of the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.  For example, the odious fact the Confederacy was a slave-holding republic does not negate the fact that many Southerners used the language of the Declaration to justify secession and resistance against the North. The Declaration is quite clear: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” What constitutes abuses and usurpations might be in the eye of the beholder, but the arbitrary use of power against a people’s liberty is a clear justification to “throw off” a government that allows or practices that kind of power.

Furthermore, the proponents also know something that the Founders also claimed. It is one thing to declare your independence, defined as the right to pursue liberty, which is the ability to do all things within the law without permission of a higher authority. It is quite another to act on your liberty, and positive action – even secession – is proof of real liberty. It might not be an advisable action, but it is an independent action.  At the time of the Declaration, the United States had to prove it was thriving, viable state, not simply a rebellion, not the 18th-century equivalent of Somalia, the Sudan, or some other failed state wracked by civil war or insurgency. Actions do speak louder than words.

At the time the Declaration was written, the world was full of independent states (though they were almost all monarchies), there was thriving international trade, recognition of the importance of state sovereignty (the power of a nation to govern its own affairs independently, free of interference from outside powers) was universal in the trans-Atlantic world, and there was a system of alliances and treaties that reflected both the European balance of power and global commercial interests. Fundamental to any new nation’s ability to engage in these activities was the power to defend its citizens and seek relationships in the national interest. Self-protection was essential to this ability, and a struggle for independence to create a state with good government was justifiable under the laws of nature and nations.  All of these positive actions marked independence in a way that the current petitioners of secession would probably accept as goals for, say, an independent Republic of Oregon or Republic of New Jersey. (Please keep the snickering to a minimum.)

The writings of Emerich de Vattel (1714-1767), a Swiss lawyer and political philosopher whose Droit des gens; ou, Principes de la loi naturelle appliqués à la conduite et aux affaires des nations et des souverains (The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law Applied to the Conduct and to the Affairs of Nations and of Sovereigns, 1758) became the standard work on international law that  helped shape the Founders’ concepts of statehood and international law. It provided a working definition of the powers of an independent state used by the drafters of the Declaration of Independence.  Vattel was widely read both in the original French and in English translation by members of the Continental Congress: Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Charles W.F. Dumas (December 9, 1775) wrote, “I am much obliged by the kind present you have made us of your edition of Vattel. It came to us in good season, when the circumstances of a rising state make it necessary frequently to consult the law of nations. Accordingly, that copy which I kept, (after depositing one in our own public library here, and sending the other to the College of Massachusetts Bay, as you directed,) has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress.” As one 18th -century translator rendered Vattel’s definition of a sovereign nation, “Every nation that governs itself, under what form soever, without dependence on any foreign power, is a Sovereign State. Its rights are naturally the same as those of any other state. Such are the moral persons who live together in a natural society, subject to the law of nations. To give a nation a right to make an immediate figure in this grand society, it is sufficient that it be really sovereign and independent, that is, that it govern itself by its own authority and laws.”   Vattel also argued that the geographical size or power of a nation (such as one made of 13 constituent states) did not eliminate or dilute the sovereign nation’s right to defend the interests of its people. “Since men are naturally equal,” he wrote, “and a perfect equality prevails in their rights and obligations, as equally proceeding from nature, nations composed of men, and considered as so many free persons living together in a state of nature, are naturally equal, and inherit from nature the same obligations and rights. Power or weakness does not in this respect produce any difference. A dwarf is as much a man as a giant; a small republic is no less a sovereign state than the most powerful kingdom.” What does this have to do with a burgeoning secession movement, real or tongue-in-cheek? One of the great truths of the Declaration is a small group of citizens — or one man or one woman — has the same inherent rights to government by consent as large populations. Size does not make one more important than another when it comes to rights.  Size only matters in politics.  There is a distinct difference between the two.

Although subjects of a sovereign owed him their allegiance and needed to maintain the “political association” even during the worst times to avoid internal and international chaos (“It is, then, an essential and necessary condition of the political society, that the subjects remain united to their prince as far as in their power”) Vattel argued that international law recognized the right of subjects to break away if they have been abandoned by their prince. “If, therefore, the state or the prince refuses or neglects to succour a body of people who are exposed to imminent danger, the latter, being thus abandoned, become perfectly free to provide for their own safety and preservation in whatever manner they find most convenient, without paying the least regard to those who, by abandoning them, have been the first to fail in their duty” – a maxim Vattel justifies with examples of his fellow Swiss breaking away from the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century because it had never protected them in an emergency. Obviously, the Continental Congress would have heartily concurred with a legal justification for independence that accepted abandonment by their prince. Today’s petition filers no doubt want to determine if they have been abandoned by their “prince,” i.e. the chief executive.  I am not sniping at President Obama with that comparison, simply point out that the minority in this last president election, though smaller than the winning side, might be asking if losing means abandonment — in other words, you lost and what you care about does not matter. Such are the reasons why the Declaration makes it clear “alter or abolish” are legitimate courses of action. Abolition of the United States isn’t exactly advisable. However, the Declaration gives a people permission to seek disunity if unity means they no longer count.

The current proponents of secession almost certainly have no familiarity with Vattel or his writings. They do, through the filter of the Declaration, understand his ideas. Probably the most prevalent question successful secessionists would ask is “What now?”  But by acting, the proponents are showing their independence within the sphere of liberty. I doubt that secession will happen. But President Obama’s political opponents are promising him four years of action, couched in the language of a document that justified revolution against established power.

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“O, Say Can You Z” Gets Another Lease On Life

“O, Say Can You Z” Gets A New Lease On Life

Enforcing the Rick-tatorship in the Hobbesian world of the zombie apocalypse

My new friends at the on-line humor magazine ThirdRailers.com were kind enough to publish my “O, Say Can You Z” article published here in an earlier post. Here’s my take on why presidential politics and the zombie apocalypse are made for each other, and what the social contract described in “The Declaration of Independence” tells us about the brutal world of the undead. The article is updated for national publication. Click on the link above to read the article.  UPDATE:  I should note that the latest Gallup poll does have Mitt Romney at 52 percent, Barack Obama at 45 percent as the choice of adults surveyed. My article originally suggested that the polls remained tightly locked. However, the presidential race obviously remains close.  

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O, Say Can You Z: How The Zombie Apocalypse Can Help Answer the Liveliest Questions During Campaign 2012

Can zombies help America decide during Decision ’12?

With just a few weeks before the First Tuesday in November, the presidential race is tighter than a mosquito’s butt in a nosedive. Face it: Nothing is moving the needle. Most of the major polls have the race between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney in a dead heat in spite of millions of dollars spent in television ads, the bully pulpit of the president’s incumbency, Joe Biden’s dental work, and debates where the candidates either seek “gotcha moments” or act like they just want the whole weary mess to conclude. Will anything shed light on who is the best choice for the highest office in the land?

Let me suggest a novel solution. If Obama and Romney simply take the epic of the zombie apocalypse seriously and spend time answering questions about the cleverly hidden messages regarding political theory and policy realities in zombie lore, Americans will be better able to make a clear and confident choice. If you think that sounds silly keep in mind that  AMC’s The Walking Dead,  cable television’s most watched series ever, debuted its third season Sunday and 10.9 million fans could not get enough of the lurking  undead. (And I am not talking about how the Dearly Departed vote in Chicago elections.) In comparison, Congress, the greatest deliberative body on the planet, currently has about a 13-point approval rating in the RealClearPolitics average of reliable polls. According to the same index, both President Obama and Gov. Romney languish below 50 percent approval. One thing that could liven up the chances of determining a victor would be getting this race linked to the dead – that’s where Americans’ interests lay. (By the way, time for a quick joke. Q: Why did the zombie apocalypse bypass the presidential debates? A: Because neither candidate had any brains.)

Before you excoriate me for offering a corny parallel between pop culture and popular politics, open your mind for just a moment. As readers of my blog know, I spend a lot of time exploring American political history and thought, particularly the message and influence of the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Period. One of the basic ideas in the Declaration is the social contract, an agreement between rulers and the ruled to honor the consent of the people in exchange for peace, security, and freedom. Thomas Jefferson summed up the idea concisely, indicating how the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are protected, not granted, by government:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Two of history’s greatest political philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, are widely credited with legitimizing this theory of government. Hobbes argues that the legitimate state is based on the ruled giving up their freedoms in exchange for the security and protection granted the people by an absolute monarchy. He famously saw life as a state of “continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” If you removed government by a mighty and powerful sovereign, you returned to a state of nature where there is the bellum omnium contra omnes – “the war of all against all,” a state of vicious, devouring destruction.  John Locke, too, believed in the state of nature, but his social contract has people developing a civil society to resolve conflicts while they maintain the right to protect their life, liberty, and property to hold violence at bay. He also believed human nature had the qualities of tolerance and reasonability, two tendencies that take a sunnier view regarding whether there is any hope for humankind.  Think of them respectively as the “daddy party” and “mommy party” of political ideologies in the Age of Enlightenment.

So what does an understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of Western democracy and a zombie outbreak have to do with presidential politics? I don’t claim to have any inside baseball regarding the intellectual leanings of the writers and producers of The Walking Dead, but that show sure includes an enormous amount of political philosophy. As far as I am concerned, it’s a simple formula: The nation’s love affair with zombies plus acknowledgement of the social contract plus probing Z-Day-themed questions from the media during the last weeks of the campaign equals America’s moment of clarity.  Want a metaphor for our current political and economic world (and I don’t mean the silly term “zombie banks”) now fraught with collapses of all types? Zombies in the show are corpses slaughtered by a virus that burns out the victim, re-animates the corpse hours later, and strips the undead of any brain functions except vicious behavior and a taste for human flesh. If that isn’t a Hobbesian metaphor for every kind of self-destructive political chaos in the world ranging from the rise of radical Islam and its nihilism to chilling of the Arab Spring into an extremist Arab Winter, what is? That kind of comparison could prompt an adept reporter to ask, “Mr. President, based on your current foreign policy of continuing to advocate foreign aid to the government of Egypt although it is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, what will be your response to the catastrophic rise of the undead when they eat the population of Pittsburg?” (Probably sobs from the chief executive as he considers all the Democratic votes there.)

Enforcing the Rick-tatorship in the Hobbesian world of the zombie apocalypse

Furthermore, the band of survivors on the show is led by the character Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy and family man who constantly struggles to hold his family together while fighting factions in the group who can’t decide their next move in this new and hostile world of ravenous zombies. Should that little group of humans decide to accept the absolute rule of the “Rick-tatorship” or strive for government that derives its just powers from the consent of the unbitten? Sounds like a Lockean dilemma to me, one that a president could answer when it comes to similar dilemmas regarding implementation or rejection of the Affordable Health Care Act, traditional marriage vs. gay rights, free market vs. government interventionist approaches to spurring our limping economy, and other conflicts begging for resolution. An on-the-ball reporter could ask, “Gov. Romney, you are now the standard bearer for a party that still espouses traditional values in a rapidly changing world. Considering that, what is your stance regarding zombie/the living marriage and how will justify your position to your party and the American people?” Ask questions like these, and you will hear some real answers.

Both men embrace big government solutions, although in some ways it’s a matter of degree. President Obama poured billions into Chevy Volts that turned out to be spendy lemons and dubious “shovel ready” projects that did nothing to prompt a recovery, while Gov. Romney helped transform Massachusetts into the land of RomneyCare, $50 abortions, judicially mandated gay marriage, and wall-to-wall gun control. One other cool thing about the zombie mythos is it is a subtle affirmation of classical liberalism, the political and economic theory espoused in the Declaration. Simply put, classical liberals believe deeply “the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.” Government unchecked or over-encouraged has the tendency of growing larger, more oafish, and hungrier. Remember an oft-forgotten line from the bill of particulars in the Declaration listing acts of George III’s tyranny: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” Only individual liberty and the widest amount of freedom within the boundaries of law and morality can save humanity. Hey, in most zombie movies, who starts the plague? The government, that’s who! Some military chem-bio warfare project goes horribly, horribly wrong, there is a cover up, and the next thing you know there are thousands of sprinting cadavers and you are the blue plate special. On The Walking Dead, the only surviving doctor at the Centers for Disease Control is a nutball research scientist who locks all the doors and blows the place up with a fuel-air explosion so it will put everyone out of their misery whether they want it or not. (Was Sarah Palin right? Is that a kind of “death panel”?)  FEMA, sharp as ever, is full of rapidly moving undead personnel, turning each refugee station into a Club Zed where it is not a place to get a meal – you are the meal.  Ask both candidates how a bloated, inept federal government could cause the next zombie outbreak and you will get America’s attention. By the way, that also would be good time for both candidates to mention how they will work to loosen federal gun control laws so putting down the undead will be that much easier.

Laugh if you want. I say that The Walking DeadWorld War Z, George Romero, and their undead counterparts in film and fiction have done more to teach people about Hobbesian and Lockean social contracts, the value of small government, and skepticism about politicians’ promises than all the political science courses and spilled ink of the chattering class combined. It’s time for the dead to rise and the candidates to put some life into this race. Zombies can help give America a hand as voters struggle to decide who should go to the White House. Or the whole arm. Or any other body part, for that matter.

Note: this post was updated Tuesday, October 16, to reflect viewership statistics for The Walking Dead.

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And Now For Your Opinion: Which Candidate Really Understands the Meaning of the Declaration?

 

Who really understands the meaning of the Declaration?

Barack Obama has misquoted it twice, even though he once suggested the Declaration’s Jeffersonian promises inspired him to act with “fierce urgency” as the president of the United States. Earlier this year, Mitt Romney suggested the Declaration (as well as the Constitution) are “either inspired by God or written by brilliant people or perhaps a combination of both,” an attitude consistent with Mormon theology but the last thing Jefferson would have considered the ultimate source of his ideas stated in his signature statement of American political and economic beliefs.

So, just what do these two guys who want to lead a nation based on the Declaration of Independence really know about its meaning? Who understands the Declaration’s real meaning the best? You, the reader of this blog, can cast your vote for the major party candidate who understands what America’s birth certificate is all about. All relevant comments are also welcome — but I suggest you keep comments about a certain president’s alleged lack of an authentic birth certificate to a minimum.

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