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"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
— from Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass"
While most men accept the surface of things, the masters of men use the surface to mean many different things for their many different ends. If you wish to understand politics, do not listen merely to the words political people say but rather inspect below the surface for the necessities such people may face. The same applies to entire nations.
On the surface level, we may still have de jure freedom and democracy in America, but below the surface, the government's necessary evils have expanded to a de facto tyranny of loosely aligned interests. An informal network of power and privilege extends throughout the public and private sectors alike, blurring where the force of law ends and begins.
Accordingly, “the few” who run America’s institutions tend to rule regardless of individual consent. America may have once been a republic, but we could not keep it. I’ll leave it to historians to decide when the old republic was truly lost.
You may object. You may say we still have the U.S. Constitution and the consent of the governed through popular elections.
Perhaps we do on the formal surface of things. Perhaps we do on parchment and paper.
Yet, below the surface and between the lines, America’s Humpty Dumpty elite sit on high and make the U.S. Constitution and the “consent of the governed” mean just what they choose it to mean — neither more nor less.
I know I personally have never given my consent for most of what our supposed democracy does every day. I have never consented to most U.S. government programs (programs often conceived decades before my own conception), yet the government persists in charging me taxes for their administration. Even when the government doesn't break my bank directly through taxation, it takes out debts in my name and sees fit to counterfeit more and more currency by means of its monopoly on the production of money. This "democratic" government then uses its taxes, debts and monopoly money to prosecute wars abroad and grant certain privileges to unelected and unaccountable special interests — an “aristocracy of pull” as Ayn Rand might have called it.
Again, I never consented to any of this. I suspect few Americans have ever consciously consented to the entire package deal.
Yet, the government maintains its actions are merely the “will of the people.” The government dispenses with individual liberty for the sake of upholding “the people’s” liberty. The government sacrifices individual rights to uphold “the people’s” rights. The government commandeers and debases individual wealth to ensure “the people’s” wealth.
The government even sees fit to redefine individual consent no matter the energy or frequency of actual dissent in the country — all while demanding signature to its social contract under the duress of its threats.
And this is supposedly the institution meant to serve as the champion of my liberty? This is the institution meant to protect me from invaders, murderers, cheats and thieves?
Who will defend me from this institution? Who will protect me from this Humpty Dumpty’s invaders, murderers, cheats and thieves?
“The people,” you say?
How can “the people” ever truly check the government if individual consent is of no concern to the government? How can a free people ever respect a government that only respects their consent as long as it sniffs of submission, conformity, resignation or defeat? Can one ever really consent in the first place if one is never given the option to “just say no” and opt out?
As Gary Chartier writes: “... if there is no real way of opting out, if the state doesn’t provide a way of allowing people not to consent to its authority while remaining within the territory it claims, then there’s really no way of opting in, either. The state treats us as having consented to its authority whatever we do, so we’re not really being given the choice to consent at all. And it’s hard to take seriously the idea that your consent means anything, that it should obligate you in any way, if you don’t have the option of not consenting.”
If indeed the United States is now mastered by an informal oligarchy, what could stop them from pretending to be the world’s greatest democracy with one of the oldest constitutions on earth?
You? Me? We, the people?
How could a government run by an unelected few — a few who are swift to twist the very concepts of consent and liberty — ever be considered a democratic republic? How could we ever restore the republic?
How? Well again, as Humpty Dumpty suggests, be the master. Then words will bend to your will. Then “the people's consent'' will be yours to define and manufacture just as you intend.
When masters seek to make the law a matter of their own authority, they picture themselves above the law — with “the people” as their rubber stamp and individuals as clay to mold to their hearts’ desires. Let us hope they do not play too rough or too cruelly in their attempts to shape us.
And let us hope more Americans see fit to master and shape themselves so they may see past the surface of things.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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