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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why Not (Mis) Quote The Framers?

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes [to provide for the] general Welfare of the United States.

 - Article I, Section 8, Constitution of the United States

Quoting RMJ quoting FRC quoting Dr Ben Carson:

Not only did Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and several of the other founding fathers speak out against government redistribution of property, but in 1795 the Supreme Court of the United States declared, "No man would become a member of a community in which he could not enjoy the fruits of his honest labor and industry. The preservation of property, then, is a primary object of the social compact.... The legislature, therefore, has no authority to make an act divesting one citizen of his freehold, and vesting it in another, without a just compensation. It is inconsistent with the principles of reason, justice and moral rectitude; it is incompatible with the comfort, peace and happiness of mankind; it is contrary to the principles of social alliance and every free government; and lastly, it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution." ...

Of course, this is in the context of Obamacare, so it's not entirely clear how that relates to issues of property, since none is being seized to provide healthcare coverage to more Americans, but I'll just take what's being said at face value.  In reverse order, then...

SCOTUS did, in fact, say that stuff in 1795.  Kudos to the good doctor for finding Vanhorne's Lessee v. Dorrance!  But isn't there an interesting ellipse?  Wonder what it might contan:

Every person ought to contribute his proportion for public purposes and public exigencies...

I cannot for the life of me figure out why Carson left that part out.  Moving on, let's take a gander at a couple of "the other founding fathers" he alludes to before we hear from Sam and Ben.  

How about Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, for starters?  A favorite quotation on the Right:

To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to every one a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.

Once again, if you look at just that sentence, you might come away with a certain Tea Party-ish impression of our 3rd president.  But if you consider what comes immediately before and after...

Whether property alone, and the whole of what each citizen possesses, shall be subject to contribution, or only its surplus after satisfying his first wants, or whether the faculties of body and mind shall contribute also from their annual earnings, is a question to be decided. But, when decided, and the principle settled, it is to be equally and fairly applied to all...If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree; and the better, as this enforces a law of nature, while extra-taxation violates it.

So if, you know, you bother to read the entire context you might notice that Jefferson thought there were myriad ways to tax, so long as it is fairly applied.  What's more, concentration of wealth could become dangerous, and he proposed one way to address the problem.

What did James Madison, Father of the Constitution, say?

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.

Notice the word 'arbitrary'.  And, naturally, he earlier observed:

Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.

Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho' from an opposite cause.

In other words, if individual rights are unlimited, then there are essentially no rights because you cannot guarantee them when they come into conflict.  So a balance must be had.

Now, Samuel Adams:

The Utopian schemes of leveling, and a community of goods, are as visionary and impractical, as those which vest all property in the Crown, are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government unconstitutional.

I would have to agree that the British approach of having all property belong to the Monarch (which is then doled out to "holders" of land) is as bad as making all property belong to the State or public or community.  Fortunately, nobody's proposed that with Obamacare, and with taxes at the lowest point in several decades, it's clear we're nowhere near a confiscatory regime.  And, of course, we have representation in our popular government which Adams and his fellow Americans lacked, as he also observed:

This natural and constitutional right is so familiar to the American subjects, that it would be difficult, if possible, to convince them, that any necessity can render it just, equitable and reasonable, in the nature of things, that the Parliament should impose duties, subsidies, talliages, and taxes upon them, internal or external, for the sole purpose of raising a revenue. The reason is obvious; because, they cannot be represented, and therefore, their consent cannot be constitutionally had in Parliament.

Finally, Ben Franklin

All Property, indeed, except the Savage's temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention.

Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition.

He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.

Oddly, Carson seems to have missed this one completely.  Franklin is postively socialist!

But I guess that's part for the course with these people.  They misquote, misapply, misrepresent and otherwise misuse the Bible, the Pilgrims, Adam Smith, Emmerich de Vattel, Ben FranklinGeorge Washington, Thomas JeffersonJames Madison, Abe Lincoln, framers of the 14th Amendment, et al, constantly, not to mention State resolutionsacts of Congress and the Constitution itself.  I really ought to create a whole new post category for such things.

ntodd

September 28, 2013 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink

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::golf clap::

Posted by: Darryl Brashier | Sep 28, 2013 10:26:33 PM

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