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What would John Adams say?

What would John Adams say?

Foreseeing tyranny

A constitutional crisis may loom on the horizon if President Obama follows through on his threats of executive action on immigration reform.

So it might be a good time to revisit what the Founders had to say about protecting future generations from the kind of tyranny that could occur even in a democracy.

When the Founders set up our government the way they did, it was not because of any sort of naiveté or vague hopefulness about government or its leaders in general. They realized that there is no way to protect people who have lost their own wisdom and judgment about these things.

The Founders tried to put in all the built-in, automatic stops to tyranny they could devise, and they were tremendously clever and creative about it. But they also realized that the task of protecting people was impossible, and that the temptation to go the way of tyranny would be great. Perhaps even unstoppable.

But they tried their best. Maybe even the best anyone could have done.

Let’s hear John Adams:

I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

From the same letter:

The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing. Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the People, who have… a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the characters and conduct of their rulers. There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free ‘government’ ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among people.

That last sentence is perhaps the most important. But they’re all pretty important. Adams’ thoughts on this should be prominently displayed and taught in every classroom—as instruction, caution, and warning.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]

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Comments

“A constitutional crisis may loom on the horizon if President Obama follows through on his threats of executive action on immigration reform.”

I’d change that to: ANOTHER constitutional crisis DOES loom on the horizon if President Obama follows through on his threats of executive action on immigration reform.

IF Barracula tries this, it may be time to withdraw our consent to be governed. That can be done remarkably peacefully and effectively, as Henry David Thoreau discovered.

JimMtnViewCaUSA | November 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm

A thrilling post.
It is a window into our shared past; it was a wonder that such a group came together as they did.

It is embarrassing to compare our current “leaders” with our founders.

    MattMusson in reply to Rick. | November 9, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    It is important to remember how Obama perverted the ObamaCare law – granting exemptions to friends, contracts to cronies and IRA audits to anyone who questioned his lies.
    For that reason an immigration reform bill CANNOT be passed under this president. He will use that as an excuse to do anything he wants to.

Humphrey's Executor | November 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I reviewed the Steel Seizure Case to bone up on the limits of presidential authority. Recall that during the Korean War Truman unilaterally ordered the Federal take over major steel companies to prevent a threatened strike and, therefore, a steel shortage. (What he really was doing was circumventing labor laws to help the union.) He got bitch-slapped by the SCOTUS including especially fellow New Dealers Douglas and Black. Even they understood that unchecked executive power –no matter who wields it– is a bad thing. Its scary how much the liberal mind has changed in the last 60 years. No principle restrains their lust for control. “The ends justify the means.” Adams was 100% right.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to Humphrey's Executor. | November 9, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I assume that you are talking the Jackson concurrence in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer that laid out a three prong approach to executive power. But, the problem with immigration is that the President has wide discretion, so he is probably unlikely to be violating the strict wording of the immigration laws, but, at worst maybe, stretching them.

    I should note that the sides with respect to this case were reversed to the FISA discussions under GW Bush. There, my argument was that we were at war, and that while we were in Jackson’s third prong, where the Executive was operating contrary to the stated will of Congress, his power was at its greatest, as commander in chief during war time. This was, of course, criticized by the left. Somehow though they justify the Executive operating contrary to the express will of Congress in terms of the PPACA, etc., despite these things being completely domestic.

      nordic_prince in reply to Bruce Hayden. | November 9, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      How can the president have “wide discretion” on immigration when immigration is under the purview of Congress? The president is supposed to faithfully execute the laws of the United States, not make up $#!+ as he goes along.

        MattMusson in reply to nordic_prince. | November 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm

        Whatever law Congress passes – Obama will pervert to his own ends.

        Bruce Hayden in reply to nordic_prince. | November 10, 2014 at 1:29 am

        The wide discretion is because Congress gave it to him. For example, he likely has discretion on who gets political asylum, because it is often a decision needs to be made quickly. And, Congress getting involved would be micro-managing.

        Often, legislation is written that something must be done, or must not be done. On the other hand, there are many situations where Congress gives the Executive (or some part of it) discretion. The Executive Branch needs to move much more quickly, and generate many more rules, than Congress could possibly do, and so in many situations, Congress allows the Executive branch to set rules, guidelines, etc., within constraints.

        So, as an example, under the PPACA, the Secretary was given discretion to set out the minimum coverage requirements. On the flip side, tax subsidies to policy holders were (more likely) limited to people on the state exchanges, and not the federal exchange. So, the Cadillac level mandatory coverages (and probably even some level of contraceptives) were just fine. But, expanding the tax rebates, etc. to those signing up through HealthCare.gov is probably not (not clear, of course, since SCOTUS granted Cert last week).

        I am arguing that much of what Obama is likely to do be more likely closer legally to HHS setting the minimum policy standards. We shall see.

What would John Adams say?

Probably…..”Argggggggggh”

    TrooperJohnSmith in reply to rabid wombat. | November 10, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Adams would probably start handing out muskets, powder horns and tomahawks.

    “No sir, John. Use this. It’s called an AR-15.

    “No, please sir, don’t try to pour powder down the barrel. See these little black metal boxes?

    “Well, sir, those are called magazines, and those long ones there, they will get me prison time in D.C. New York or California.

    “Yes sir, just for having a metal box I’d be a felon.”

    Imagine the conversations.

The government should not be permitted to spend more than it collects. And certainly not at a rate which exceeds realistic growth rates. This not only results in misaligned development, but devalues both capital and labor.

Women should not be enabled to abort/murder their children. Neither pro-abortion nor pro-choice (i.e. selective) can be reconciled with individual human rights, beginning with the false equivalence of evolution following conception and approaching death.

Individual dignity should not be denigrated. The diverse classifications are antithetical and subversive of human dignity.

Selective exclusion through opportunistic (e.g. judicial, executive) normalization creates moral hazards. There are three classifications of behavior — not orientation — that need to be considered: rejection, tolerance, and normalization.

The prerequisite for liberty is men and women capable of self-moderating, responsible behavior. The opiate of the masses, and elites, is dissociation of risk. The Constitution does not provide sufficient guidance for a population of juvenile delinquents.

Let’s face it, this Congress will do NOTHING to stop Obama from letting in millions more illegals. Boehner will cry and McConnell will whine and they will do NOTHING. Those two are both bought and paid for by the Chamber of Commerce so NOTHING will be done until they are replaced as “leaders” by the next congress.

First of all, John Adams didn’t say anything until he had consumed his first tankard of good hard cider in the morning.

But who knew he foresaw Obama in such detail?

“It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation.”

Yep, that describes our boy, to a tee.

yeah, but wasn’t he just some racist old white dude?

“Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among people.”

Pure plain and simple the socialist have been undermining our democracy for decades. John Dewey was a socialist. Socialist dominate colleges of education, which are already a mess. (Colleges of Education have students, both undergraduate and graduate with the lowest admissions test scores and yet the highest GPAs.) The movie about America mentioned the text that just ripped American history as being racist and flawed was accurate. We need to remove the laws that mandate, under penalty of law, school attendance by innocent children. Teachers know they have a legal monopoly and they abuse their powers. Clearly the job of having “an educated electorate” isn’t happening with the teachers unions being right there next to journalist for supporting the Democrats.

Let’s see.
1. Money spent on public education isn’t getting them educated, as witness the many poor test scores.
2. Children are being introduced to the criminal justice way too soon with schools, either under truancy prosecutions or the growing presence of “School Resource Officers” who issue tickets for were previously school discipline infractions.
3. Parents of “good” families are being forced to send their children to be with progressive teachers promoting homosexuality, abortion and a total lack of values, or they have to sit with children who have no home life.
4. The state telling parents they must do this or that with their children is just plain authoritarian. Parents want their kids educated. But too many parents mistakenly trust the schools. “Learn to read, the state needs literate voters!” is right next to “Eat your broccoli, the state needs skinnier health users!”

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