The Group

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I met the first Member in the parking lot. Actually, it was not the Member himself, but one of his employees. (He has many of them working parking lots throughout the area). "I want a dollar. Give it to me NOW!" was the demand. I ignored him and entered the store.

I debated with myself in the wine aisle. Should I go for my usual $2.99 merlot (brisk, hearty, with a strong finish), or indulge myself with the $4.99 chardonnay (delicate, fruity, with a hint of persimmon; reminiscent of wooded glades in spring)? My reverie was crudely interrupted by another Member. "I want to pass. Move your cart. It’s in the way." I pointed out that there was ample room for her to get by. "Stationary shopping carts are always to be on the right side of the aisle," she snapped.

When I asked the butcher to grind some chuck roast for me, with added fat, for hamburger, still another Member remonstrated with me. "All that fat is bad for your heart. You shouldn’t eat fatty foods." In the gardening section, outside, I lit up a cigarette while contemplating perennials. "How dare you smoke! Don’t you know that with every breath I draw in some of that smoke?" whined still another Member. My suggestion that he stop breathing was met with ill humor.

The Members of the group are a nuisance, but easily ignored. They’re wasting their time, seemingly unaware that it’s already been done. The first Group did it over two centuries ago.

They didn’t call themselves The Group to Regulate, Limit, and Control Everyone, For Their Own Good, and Convert Their Property To Our Use. That sounds too harsh and self-serving, and besides, it’s too much to write on a check. Rather, they referred to themselves as We The People. I will not argue with those who insist that their intentions were good, and that the government they established, with its Constitution, was the best government, and best Constitution, ever devised by man. That claim is probably true, and I won’t challenge it. My contention is that the best government, with the best Constitution ever devised by well-meaning men, is still deplorable, or becomes so.

They declared that their goals were to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty." The Articles of Confederation, which the new Constitution replaced, could also have made those same claims. For that matter, people, left to their own devices, could perfectly well claim the same objectives, and meet them with as much success, or more, than the government.

How were the Founders to achieve these lofty aims? By the exercise of power, such as the power to make laws, as in "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States — ." What was the source of this power? The Founders bestowed it upon themselves. The sole source of "legislative Powers" was determined by them, upon their own authority, to be exercised by them, or, later, by people elected according to their rules. They also bestowed upon Congress the power to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises," which is an elegant and formal way of stating that Congress could seize other people’s property to support itself. But this seizure was perfectly proper, just, and lawful, because the Founders wrote it down in the Constitution, pursuant to their power to do so, which they arrogated to themselves.

They had no choice, of course. Alexander Hamilton observed, at the Constitutional Convention, "Money is one of the essential agencies of government. Without it no Government can exist, and without the power to raise it, it cannot be had." The power to "raise it," of course, is simply the power to seize it. In other words, money is so important to government that seizing it, by force if necessary, from those who possess it, is proper and right. Of course, the owners of the money could rightly claim that their money is essential to them, and they cannot exist without it; but such arguments would be dismissed as baseless, or in modern terms, "frivolous": a shibboleth employed by government to describe an argument they cannot refute. To eliminate the possibility that the people refuse to support government, Congress created a banking system that created money out of nothing, and lent it, without expectation of repayment, except interest, to government forever. But the output of the printing press (inflation) reduces the value of existing money, and thus, indirectly, the people DO support government via the loss of purchasing power of their incomes and savings. Thus, we have taxation via an alternative method, as yet largely unperceived by its victims.

This is the great, and, in my opinion, unsolvable, problem of government. It exists, ostensibly, to protect the rights of the people. One of those rights, perhaps the greatest one after the right to life itself, is the right to own property. Yet as Mr. Hamilton has so clearly stated, government cannot exist without money, and the means to "raise" it. Hence the paradox: the institution existing to protect one’s right to property is the only institution which can, and will, seize one’s property for its own purposes, like it or not. The organization founded to establish justice must, inevitably, be unjust, but not culpable for its injustice, since it is the judge of its own actions, and judges them right and proper. Still another power granted Congress is that to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers — ," thus ensuring that what Congress does will be legal — because it says so.

It’s a certainty that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not, in 1787, consider the possibility that society could exist, absent some form of government. Nor, I am sure, did the people themselves, upon whose shoulders the burden of government would fall, entertain such a notion. Nor do people even today. Government, contrary to popular belief, is the oldest profession, and thus accepted as inevitable, as is its competitor for the title of world’s oldest profession, to which it is closely related. Government was seen as essential, and thus its inherent inconsistencies were unseen, or overlooked.

But the government of the Founders was a treasure, compared to the institution into which it has degenerated. What we call government today is a collection of fools and crooks totally absorbed with furthering their own ends, and those of their cronies, at the expense of "We The People," who are, in theory, their masters. The Constitution, so painstakingly forged two hundred and twenty years ago, is irrelevant and preserved as an historical artifact of no practical significance.

If the question could have been raised at that first Constitutional Convention: "of what need is this government you propose, and how can it exist without violating the rights of those it is designed to protect?" how much more relevant today is the same question. Of what need is this organization? Are we to bend our knee, and give allegiance, to an outfit that exists to enrich its adherents, at our expense, and the expense of our freedom, prosperity, and safety?

I think not, but I always seem to be in the minority.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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