The current debate about reshuffling the deck chairs — or merely their occupants — on the "U.S.S. Intelligence Failure" misses the point, as usual. Without true reform, we could be in for an even worse disaster than that suffered on 9-11.
Our country, we are told, has embarked on a war that may last for fifty years. Our bitter enemy "hates us because we are free." Well, if they really do "hate us because we are free," then at least we ought have a little freedom to show for our pains, instead of increasing federal control over every corner of our lives. There are solid, attractive alternatives to the political games now in high gear in Washington, alternatives that will actually increase our freedoms. As a bonus, they’ll give us a much better chance of defending our country.
So far, the two major parties have studiously avoided embracing or even discussing the fundamental problems that hobble our government in its war effort. If the war is to last fifty years, lovers of liberty should look beyond the two-party chatter and advance a serious program for strengthening and defending our country and our children. The two parties my not be with us in 50 years, but, God willing, our children and grandchildren will be. The kind of country they inherit will depend very critically on what we do now. The best guarantee of their freedom is the U.S. Constitution and, specifically, the limits it imposes on power at all levels of the federal government and the clarity with which it articulates the task of providing for the common defense. We need thoroughgoing reforms now that remove the serious dangers to our peace and safety, dangers that have been brought about by ignoring the Constitution.
For openers, I present ten such reforms here. Their implementation would not only multiply our freedoms, but would also make government more ordered to the essential defense of our country. And they would open our eyes to many, many more such reforms that would naturally follow. Since the Washington consensus has determined that no one but “the system” is to blame for the failures that allowed 9-11 to happen, these reforms focus on rebuilding “the system,” from the ground up. This approach requires some serious fundamental change, but the alternative would leave in place the very “system” that failed us in the first place.
Why this radical departure from "business as usual"? Simply this: the approach embraced by our politicians today is doomed to failure. As Eric Voegelin puts it in his discussion of Socrates and Athens, "a reform cannot be achieved by a well-intentioned leader who recruits his followers from the very people whose moral confusion is the source of disorder."
Adoption of these ten modest reforms will begin to eliminate the confusion that is the source of our disorder, and returning to the principles of our Founding Fathers. Perfect? No, but far superior to the casual and consistent indulgence in power-lust that now reigns supreme in American politics — and far more realistic about the limits that are needed on any government power placed in the hands of imperfect, fallen man.
Here, then, are ten reforms that will help us defend our country and our freedom:
- Abolish all federal agencies that don’t contribute to the Constitutional mandate of the federal government. Close HUD, Education, EEOC, Labor, HHS, (add your favorites here) and the thousands of other useless bureaus and agencies that only multiply the confusion. Let all federal employees compete with everyone from the private sector for the few, tough, critical jobs that remain. We need only the best talent to fight terrorism. The rest of the erstwhile bureaucrats should go into the private sector, where they’ve always maintained they could excel. Now’s their chance.
- Most Americans (as well as their elected representatives) haven’t a clue as to the size of the Federal Register, with all its regulations, and the burden they impose on getting any legitimate job done. So all federal government regulations should either be adopted as legislation — by recorded vote, after ample debate of each particular — or be allowed to expire immediately.
- Average Americans simply don’t understand how much energy is consumed by the tiresome (and thus seldom-employed) procedures to fire incompetents in the federal bureaucracy. It costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes over a year, to fire one incompetent bureaucrat. Then, Washington lawyers specializing in suing government agencies to protest such dismissals step in for several more years. So no one gets fired — but millions of incompetent bureaucrats stay on the job with little to do. Hence, we should abolish all government unions and "civil service" boondoggles that stand in the way of getting the legitimate job done. Today, the energies of millions of American government workers are directed primarily towards protection of their positions, their turf, and the political agenda of their unions. But we must now have only one goal — to preserve and protect our country. In tandem with this reform, we must terminate all automatic Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAS’s) and all taxpayer-guaranteed government pensions. Everyone (in the public and private sectors) should be given the entire cash value of his pension out of social security and government pension funds so he can put them directly into a private instrument. This reform will help to eliminate any sense of unwarranted resentment of the government bureaucracy by the people the government is sworn to protect — private citizens — who will otherwise be expropriated to finance the trough-dwellers. This will make an important and patriotic contribution to the cause of our self-defense.
- All government-financed compulsory schools and all government funding of education have clearly failed. They should be abolished. Parents must have full control over their children’s education and the money spent to procure it. Knowledge of the world is a prerequisite for an informed citizenry, and our ignorance of basic world events, history, religions and movements — due primarily to poor government education — has contributed to the confusion now manifestly evident in U.S. foreign policy. Parents care more about their children than bureaucrats do. They must be given full control of their children’s education and future — as well as the considerable sums now expropriated from families by government in the name of "the children."
- Establish a 10% flat-rate tax that can allow the millions of brilliant, professional Americans now employed in navigating the tax swamp to drain it, and return to the productive economy, which now needs them so much because of the crisis that confronts us. And allow no low-income exemptions. Let every working American see the impact of taxes and have a sense of paying their way. As Jesse Helms says, "The Bible says to give the Lord ten percent. The government shouldn’t get a penny more."
- Allow members of Congress to serve from their home districts. Stop the scare tactics that front for appointing, and not electing, Congress in "emergencies." Most Representatives watch the floor proceedings on television from their offices anyway; they could do so with equal ease from their 435 different home districts, thus making it harder for terrorists (and lobbyists) to find them all in one place. And it wouldn’t hurt for Representatives to live in their home districts and send their children to local schools, where they would rub shoulders with the people they represent, instead of having neighbors and classmates who come from the wealthy lobbying, bureaucratic, and foreign diplomatic communities, all of whom advocate the expansion of the federal trough. A large picture window in every congressional home-district office will easily allow the average citizen to see whoever is meeting with their elected member at any time, without his having to hire a lobbyist, take a week off from work, and undertake expensive travel to Washington.
- Publish on the Internet the full schedules of meetings — electronic and personal — of all senators and representatives and their staffs. They should keep no meetings secret from the people they serve and protect.
- The Supreme Court also advocates more power for Washington and for itself, so all these reforms should be removed from federal court jurisdiction by Congressional invocation of Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. If necessary, cease all funding for federal courts, save the salaries of judges themselves, which the Constitution protects against reduction during their terms of service. Return Congress to its rightful role as the primary reservoir of the voice of the people.
- Enforce immigration laws and associated laws, and remove all illegals from U.S. territory. If "world opinion" (or domestic leftist or corporate opinion) objects, explain that, sorry, we’re at war, and the people who attacked us last time were all illegal aliens.
- Since a reformed government must defend the country unencumbered by wasteful politically-correct dross, we should abolish all government regulations on all levels that require governments or private citizens and businesses to consider the race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or national origin of their employees — or of anyone else (Do we really want the agent in charge of finding the ten-kiloton bomb smuggled into New York or Washington to be chosen on the basis of race, sex, or disability, rather than sheer ability?) This should apply especially to, but should not be limited to, the Armed Forces. All “essential” government personnel at all levels should be hired and fired based solely on qualifications. All “non-essential personnel” should be fired immediately and permanently, no questions asked.
Some might call these reforms "extreme." I disagree. What would be extreme is the irresponsible reshuffling of the deck chairs around government bureaucracies in the face of the terrorist threat, until our country inevitably sinks into calamity. Should that eventuality (and may God forbid it) come to pass, we all know that the new, sober, suffering, hardscrabble society that survives will not be clamoring for more Mapplethorpe exhibits, affirmative action, homosexual marriage, or corporate welfare. Our descendants and survivors will be doing everything they can to erect a free and secure society that can defend itself and leave the rest of the world alone.
The Founding Fathers gave us a great roadmap. We should act now. Why wait for Armageddon?