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Peter Schramm has diligently brought to the attention of RONLT the series of political treatises known as "Letters from an Ohio Farmer." These missives have now been consolidated in book form under the title, "A Constitutional Conversation: Letters from an Ohio Farmer," which is available for download on Kindle.
The farmer describes the book as follows:
We are not the oldest country in the world, but our written Constitution has endured longer than that of any other people. That fact is worth not only celebrating, but pondering.
This is especially important for members of Congress. As these letters have had occasion to observe, Congress is at the very heart of our experiment in constitutional self-government. In the Constitution, Congress comes first: it is Article I. Congress holds the law-making power without which the president has much less to do and the federal courts nothing at all.
In fact, of all the branches, Congress has the primary authority to interpret the Constitution. Like the president or the Supreme Court, Congress receives its power from the Constitution. Just as the president has no authority to act against the Constitution, you in Congress have no authority to pass legislation that violates it. So - as the 112th Congress has distinguished itself by recognizing - every time you consider a bill, the first question you must ask yourself is not: "Do my constituents like it?" or even "Is it a good idea?" but "Is this Constitutional?" That's not a matter of partisan politics; it's a matter of legitimate authority.
That constitutional deliberation must continue in Congress if we are going to restore the American experiment in self-government. For it is in Congress where the American people most fully govern themselves: where the common rights and responsibilities of the American people are submitted to law, and where the variety of the legitimate interests of the American people are most fully represented. When people's representatives engage in constitutional deliberation, the American people engage in it too.
The book's preface, penned on Constitution Day 2011, is worth quoting in full:
The American people have started a historic conversation - about the foundations, purposes, and scope of our government. In a spontaneous movement they rose to challenge long-established orthodoxies, and a sustained exertion of their sovereign power is changing the direction in which the country is heading. The movement began with no headquarters, no recognized leader, and no agreed upon platform. Thousands of independent groups of private citizens gathered in thousands of public squares across the land. Through all the diverse ideas expressed in these gatherings, one theme shone clearly: the federal government has, over the last several decades, stepped further and further outside the bounds of the Constitution.
How did our government get to this point? What would constitutional government look like? What paths are available to the people and their representatives for returning to constitutional self-government? These and related questions were taken up in a series of weekly letters sent to the 112th Congress over the past year, and collected here, as a humble contribution to this American conversation - a constitutional conversation in the broadest sense. The letters continue and can be read weekly at: www.ohiofarmer.org.
The Ohio Farmer is not one person, but a group of citizens seeking to preserve constitutional self-government in America. The Farmer's letters are written in the tradition of the Federalists and Antifederalists in the American founding who wrote newspaper articles debating the new form of government proposed in the Constitution of 1787. They wrote using pen names such as Publius, or Federal Farmer, or American Citizen, to allow their arguments to speak for themselves and be judged on their own merits. The letters from the Ohio Farmer are offered in the same spirit.
The Ohio Farmer is a project of the Ashbrook Center. The various authors who compose each letter from the Ohio Farmer are partisans in one sense: they are partisans of the constitutional self-government they regard as America's greatest gift to the world. The Ohio Farmer is not primarily concerned with immediate policy questions, though he necessarily discusses them; he hopes to refine and enlarge the public's view of the larger political principles implicit in our policy debates. He is a friend to all who love this country and wish it well; he is searching for that common ground that can unite all reasonable parties who wish to maintain America's glorious tradition of constitutional self-government.
The Letters are necessary reading for political philosophers and citizen patriots alike. They possess the element of timelessness which sets apart historic works of political writing - simultaneously capturing the contemporary zeitgeist while evoking fundamental principles of political philosophy.
The Department of Agriculture is instituting a $.15 tax on Christmas trees--which are actually called that and not some PC holiday shrub or greenery.
In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board....And the program of "information" is to include efforts to "enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States" (7 CFR 1214.10).
To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52).
May a government board promote Christmas? Are we on our way to a state religion? Or does the taxing of Christmas trees foretell the taxing of churches? For a look at the founders' view of such matters (here noting the civil piety of Thanksgiving), see this additional commentary by Jefferson and this one by Washington.
UPDATE: Rush reports that the board's fee (not a tax) has been withdrawn. The fee is gathered from sellers so the board can come up with ways to help sellers market their product.
As the super committe negotiating how to move closer to a balanced budget moves along, it might be time to get creative in suggesting solutions. To that end, I have a thought. If the Democrats are dug in, demanding tax hikes, the GOP could accept some tax hikes (provided they are of the sort least likely to hurt the economy--not all taxes are alike after all). In return, the Democrats would agree to the repeal of a host of regulations, and fire many of the people who currently are employed by the government to create and enforce regulations. That last step would, of course, produce additional savings.
Pick up, the first 100 men you meet, and make a Republick. Every Man will have an equal Vote. But when deliberations and discussions are opened it will be found that 25, by their Talents, Virtues being equal, will be able to carry 50 Votes. Every one of these 25, is an Aristocrat, in my Sense of the Word.
And, Adams noted elsewhere, in the absence of formal institutions to hedge and check the few against the many, the few will steamroll over the many. Adams, of course, defined a "talent" as something that gives a man an edge, whether it be looks, a famous name, intelligence, connections, ruthlessness, or something else. The doings in Zuccotti Park confirm Adams' insight:
In the minutes of the teach-in on Saturday the 22nd, the leaders recognize that usurping power from the NYC-GA might make people uncomfortable. The Structure WG's eventual proposal was to keep the General Assembly alive and functioning while the Spokes Council "gets on its feet." . . .
When my turn came to speak, I brought up the plans of "the leaders of the allegedly leaderless movement" to commandeer the half-million dollars sent to the General Assembly for their new, exclusive, undemocratic, representational organization. Before I could finish, the facilitators and other members of the OWS inner circle started shouting over me. Amidst the confusion, the human mic stopped projecting what I, or anybody was saying. Because silence was what they were after, the leaders won.
Eventually one of the facilitators regained control of the crowd and explained that I was speaking "opinions, not facts," which is why I would not be allowed to continue. He also asserted untruthfully that I had gone over my allotted minute. Notably, the facilitators and members of the OWS inner circle regularly ignore time restrictions.
If Obama is to win re-election one year from today, he'll need to prove a "historic" candidate in less esoteric and more statistically significant ways than propelled him to victory for his first term. He'll have to defy the historic trends for presidential elections as they presently stand. As the Washington Times notes:
At 43 percent approval in a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 28-30, Mr. Obama recently referred to himself as an "underdog" -- with good reason. Of all the presidents since World War II whose job-approval scores were lower than 50 percent one year before Election Day, only one went on to win a second term.
That was President Nixon, whose job approval stood at 49 percent in November 1971. He rebounded to defeat Democrat George McGovern in a landslide in 1972.
Obama's approval rating is much lower than Nixon's and, hopefully, the GOP candidate will prove more formidable than McGovern.
Unemployment is another statistical guide.
No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has won a second term when the unemployment rate was higher than 7.2 percent. Reagan won in 1984 with a jobless rate at 7.2 percent.
Obama, of course, is no Reagan and present unemployment hovers at 9%.
So, Obama has his work cut out for him. But he does have a few advantages going for him.
He is still a formidable fundraiser, having amassed more than $150 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee this year.
Also, his re-election operation is more robust than any of the GOP camps, which are waging a long and costly primary battle. Mr. Obama's campaign is able to build on a 50-state network from 2008, an email list of more than 9 million potential supporters and an experienced staff with unequaled savvy in digital marketing and social networking.
In early polling of head-to-head matchups with potential GOP candidates, Mr. Obama comes out on top in nearly every instance. One poll in the battleground state of Florida this week showed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tied with Mr. Obama.
And the Times contemplates the possibility of a third party candidate siphoning votes from the Republican nominee - but I don't foresee such a option in the tea leaves.
As I've noted previously, Obama is not being blamed by the American people for the state of the country. The buck, it seems, has not stopped with the president. It must be a priority for the GOP candidate to lay blame were it belongs and tie the economy as an albatross around the president's neck. Where the media has deflected blame from Obama, the GOP must nail it to his campaign bus. A Republican cannot win if Obama is not recognized as the culprit responsible for America's woes and deserving of its righteous anger.
The WSJ replaced its weekend interview with an article by Neal Freeman (a 38-year board member at National Review) which imagines a series of interviews between the late William F. Buckley and the conservative movement. It celebrates the 60th anniversary of "God and Man at Yale."
The personal anecdotes of Buckley's life and reflections on the conservative movement's "scrawny" ranks at Yale in those early days (not that those ranks have been greatly increased in academic settings since Buckley's days) make the article an amusing read. And Freeman's assessment of Buckley's would-be judgement on the GOP field, as well as conservative scholars and writers, is noteworthy.
Freeman blinks at the last moment and refuses to throw Buckley's weight behind a single candidate. But we are reminded of the ever-relevant Buckley Rule: Conservatives should support for election the rightward-most viable candidate. 2012 is no exception to the rule.