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Responsibility and War Powers

By Franklin  Posted by Populist Party (about the submitter)     Permalink
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It is certainly no longer news that our elected representatives rarely read the laws they pass, let alone think through the possible applications and implications of those laws before casting their votes. Our elites thrive on an accumulation of power that results from the disintegration of our constitutional protections. Our discussion, of late, has focused on this shift from constitutional to arbitrary power in the executive branch; especially in relation to war powers. As a result of this disintegration, we can see that the interests of our rulers generally lie in a direction opposite to that of the will of the People. Thus, they have effectively automated our political system to resist fundamental change resulting in an endless drift towards despotism.


It must be admitted, that people, from king to president, down to the industrialist and the laborer, are constantly aiming at greater levels of power and importance. This self-evident propensity must be closely and constantly guarded against in the forms of government. As has been noted previously, the United States Constitution places restraints on Congress and the Executive branch so as not to wage war casually and without proper declaration. It provides no authority to spend money or lives to spread our political message around the world. But, it is an unfortunate truth that Presidents, Congresses, and political parties alike, no longer follow this clearly-defined law.

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A good start to correcting the near-constant violations of the war powers clause by both the Congress and the Executive would be a strict adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution. This would bring an immediate halt to our ill-advised experiment in assuming the role of world policeman. We have been told that our undeclared wars throughout the years in places like Korea, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, have been worth the countless lives lost, and the many thousands more wounded. I disagree; with great sadness for those who have suffered dearly, and with so little hope for future peace.


Such complacence regarding the rule of law would constitute a monstrous breach of trust if we supposed that the President and members of Congress had a duty to perform the role the Constitution assigned to them, or if we judged such behavior in light of the theory by which the administration of government in a democratic society is legitimized; the process by which laws are passed, and federal actions embarked upon, supposedly assures us that there is some connection and some degree of correspondence through "representation" and elected rulers," between what the government does and what "the People" actually think or at least want! If that process becomes a mockery, then it becomes dubious to claim that the actions of government represent the "will of the people" or even the "will of the majority." In such a situation, government is no longer "self-government" and becomes, instead, fiat imposed upon its subjects. And so it is inappropriate to dwell excessively on how war is declared, unless we begin questioning whether such acts can ever have any legitimate claim upon us or be considered as anything other than the exercise of arbitrary, unaccountable power.


My intention, here, is to examine the two systemic conditions that make consistent violations of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution possible, rational, and even inevitable. First, government "officials" are not truly responsible for the laws that they pass, or for the consequences of those laws. The Constitution itself provides that the members of Congress "shall in all cases, except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses..." Thus, legislators cannot be held accountable for any laws they pass or for the consequences of their laws. Likewise, the President can only be removed from office "on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." And, since impeachments are handled by the Congress, the entire process has been reduced to little more than a political process. Thus, the sole remedy of the electorate is to vote their rulers out of office.


It is difficult, if not impossible, to think of any other situation in which a person is given such great power over the lives, and liberty of others where, no matter how much harm they commit, the worst and only thing that can happen to them is a loss of their job. Not getting reelected may mean a lot to politicians, but it obviously has not been enough to restrain them from violating the Constitution.

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It is important to realize just how unlikely a possibility even this is. Getting fired for violating the Constitution assumes that voters will always understand the cause and effect connection between the actions of their leaders and their subsequent harms. But first, elections are usually much more about the future than the past. Second, the government follows the rule that you cannot be blamed for a law you didn't write, and the President cannot be blamed for Congressional violations of the Constitution; such as an illegal transfer of the power to declare war. Voters have little to no incentive to care or notice. They have no reason to care unless and until adverse effects reach them directly. As long as wars continue destroy other people's lives, ignorance is bliss!


But this is not all. A second flawed condition of the Constitution founds the entire enterprise of government, top to bottom, on irresponsibility and unaccountability. Not only are politicians not responsible for the consequences their actions, but the voters themselves are also not responsible for them, because they are not responsible for the actions of their representatives.


Ask yourself whether you would trust, or willingly pay for the services of, a doctor, attorney, or car manufacturer if they were nearly immune from liability for any potential injury. Ask whether you would stand for any company telling you the kind of lies and distortions that politicians routinely spew at us about federal laws and programs. Under securities laws, corporations are not only prohibited from lying to you about their financial condition and activities, but they are also required to not omit to tell you anything else, if such omissions would cause what they do tell you to be misleading. In our current system of government, no such anti-fraud or full-disclosure laws apply to political speech!


Furthermore, outside of government, a principal is responsible for the actions of their agent. If their agent harms people or property in the performance of their duties for the principal, then the principal is liable. If no one assumes responsibility for the acts of a governmental "representative," the representative is not really an agent of anyone, and therefore, as an agent of no one, is simply acting on their own authority; for which they are accountable and responsible to no one.


Thus, it is pure nonsense to assert that the government is the "servant" or "agent" of the People, or that members of Congress are "representative" of the People. While in office, our "representatives" brandish an absolute and irresponsible power. The people over whom such control is exercised are, in reality, little more than slaves. Just because a People is allowed to chose a new master every few years does not mean that they are not still slaves! What makes them slaves is the fact that their lives are now, and will always be, in the hands of people whose power over them will forever be unlimited and irresponsible!


Such reflections make plain the extent to which the activities that we consider to make up our "government" can advance only because those administering the government are not responsible for the consequences of their acts; neither the legislators who make the laws nor the people who want the laws. Not only is this authority over other people irresponsible, but such control is possible only because it lacks responsibility.


It is the lack of responsibility in our nation's war-making power which represents what may be the greatest error on the part of the founding fathers; and we are still paying for it today. The United States Constitution does not state what wars are proper and what wars are not. It does not control the incentives of industries that profit from war. It does not provide consequences for any violations of the powers of war. The paper-delineated divisions of war-making powers between Congress and the Executive, as well as regular elections in Congress, have proven to be no defense against disastrous war-making! It is hard to imagine any revised form of self-government that could produce worse results than the blank check written to our rulers that we have now!

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Irresponsibility and unaccountability are the essence of government, in the form of the state. Not too many people actually take time to consider the implications and consequences of this. Instead, people call for minor reforms to correct this or that problem, but none of these cosmetic reforms go to the root of the problem; they do not alter the fundamental and systemic conditions that make the state what it is today. How, then, can our problems ever be resolved?


Who, then, will "deter" our leaders from the normal temptations of power; including violations of the Constitution and other high-risk behaviors that lead to war? At the present time, we must rely, I suppose, on the hoped-for goodness and wisdom of politicians and their cabals of unelected bureaucrats. What a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in when our liberty and prosperity is left in the hands of people such as these!


In general, people don't wake up in the morning with the desire to drop bombs on other people in foreign countries that they do not know, have never injured them in any way, and have never threatened them or their family. This desire is always government-induced and government-sponsored. When it comes to mass murder around the world, the state is second to none.

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