Bill Bonner

This is the last in a series. We began by wondering how come some people get to boss other people around…

We’re not talking about wives and husbands or employees and their employers. In those cases, the bossing is legit. Husbands ask for it. And employees can walk off the job anytime they like.

We’re talking about people who have the right — by law — to tell other people what to do. The TSA agent…the policeman…the building inspector…the customs agent…the IRS clerk…the FDA…the CIA…the FBI…

It is a remarkable thing, don’t you think, dear reader? It says right there in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal.’ Equality under the law is supposed to be the law of the land. And yet, some people are clearly above the law…some give orders to complete strangers…and some people even claim the right to make laws any way they want.

There are laws that tell you not to murder…and not to steal. In the 10 Commandments given to Moses, God named 10 laws that he considered important. But the folks walking the floors of Congress, the EPA, the SEC, the IRS and a plethora of other government agencies have added 10,000 more commandments. ‘Thou shalt’ this… ‘thou shalt not’ that. You can barely go to the bathroom or drill an oil well, without asking permission from a dozen different bureaucracies. ‘Ignorance of the law,’ is said to be an ineffective defense. But it’s a very effective explanation. There are so many laws, rules, regulations, edicts, commandments, prohibitions, interdictions, injunctions, requirements and obligations that you are bound to miss one or two of them.

The latest Defense Authorization Bill just passed by Congress shows how far the law-makers and law-enforcers will go. The doctrine of habeas corpus goes back to before the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. It was an ancient Anglo-Saxon limitation on the power of government. If the feds held a prisoner, a writ of habeas corpus required them to “produce the body.” The government had to either release the person or charge him with a crime. For more than 800 years, this gave people some protection against government.

But now, in the Year of Our Lord 2011, the Congress of the United States of America, with the complicity of POTUS, himself, has seen fit to deny the right of habeas corpus to American citizens. Henceforth, the feds can capture you, put you in prison and waterboard you every day for the rest of your life. They don’t have to charge you with murder or jay-walking or any crime at all. They don’t have to let you talk to a lawyer. Or to your spouse. Or to your Congressman… They don’t have to read you your rights or provide any evidence against you. Like the Argentines in the ’80s, they just ‘disappear’ you. And you’re gone forever.

The Guardian reports:

Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing. The legislation has also been strongly criticised by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of “a war that appears to have no end”.

The law, contained in the defence authorisation bill that funds the US military, effectively extends the battlefield in the “war on terror” to the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention.

“It’s something so radical that it would have been considered crazy had it been pushed by the Bush administration,” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. “It establishes precisely the kind of system that the United States has consistently urged other countries not to adopt. At a time when the United States is urging Egypt, for example, to scrap its emergency law and military courts, this is not consistent.”

Rand Paul, a strong libertarian, has said “detaining citizens without a court trial is not American” and that if the law passes “the terrorists have won”.

“We’re talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantánamo Bay and held indefinitely. It puts every single citizen American at risk,” he said. “Really, what security does this indefinite detention of Americans give us? The first and flawed premise, both here and in the badly named Patriot Act, is that our pre-9/11 police powers were insufficient to stop terrorism. This is simply not borne out by the facts.”

So now the feds, whose salaries we pay, can spy on us with drones we paid for too. They can send a swat team to disappear us…and keep us in prison.

Our question is: ‘what gives them the right?’ What bread to these people eat? What air do they breathe?

We’ve seen the theories. We’ve seen them in practice too. The ‘divine right of kings.’ The ‘social contract.’ ‘From each according to his abilities…’ ‘The greatest good for the greatest number.’

What they all have in common is that they are not theories, but apologia. One claims to know God’s own plan. Another imagines that the powerless masses agreed to be pushed around. Still another pretends that it’s for their own good.

Some of the excuses are implausible or unbelievable. Others are absurd. The ‘theories’ make no sense. But the facts are undeniable. And the fact is that there are always some people who are willing, ready and able to boss others around. Some rulers — the ‘insiders’ — are smarter than others. Some are nicer. Over time, you see all sorts. Their goal is always the same — to take power and wealth away from the outsiders. How much? As much as they can get away with.

You may wonder, for example, how come the governments of the developed countries all seem to be in the same deep hole of debt. If you listened to the politicians, for example, you might conclude that France and America were an ocean apart. Actually, overall tax, spending, and debt levels are similar in all OECD nations. And tax levels, generally, are about 10 times higher than they were in the last century. And their forms of government are about the same too — even though the insiders claim to have very different ideas about how to govern.

What happened?

The genius of modern democracy is that it makes the citizen a party to his own enslavement. Rather than give up 10% of his output to his feudal lord and master, he gives up 30% to 50% to his democratically-elected bosses. They tell him what to do. And he believes he is giving the orders!

And then, he believes he has discovered the best form of government in the world. It is so good he can’t wait to force others to be democrats too.

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily ReckoningDice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010. 

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