Let’s start 2011 off right with the first installment of Steve Spellman’s On Liberty column. Steve has agreed to become a regular contributor to the KCF site and we couldn’t be more excited!
Four Things for a Better 2011 – A Personal Resolution
by Steve Spellman
It’s been a whole two years ago now that I had the opportunity to have a guest op-ed published in the Columbia Missourian newspaper, in which I proposed my personal wishes for 2009:
1. End the “Out of Control Government Spending”
2. Make government more accountable to the people
3. Not allow contentious topics to personally divide people
4. Get bikes and cars and pedestrians to “just get along.”
We saw limited success with any of those, I’d say…
So… I could still list those same things, but my outlook has changed /grown since 2009, the world is different, and someone writing something feels an obligation to come up with fresh stuff…so here goes… my wish list for 2011.
1. Let’s Break Free of the Left/Right Political Paradigm — So our last Republican president more than doubled the national debt, said things like “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system”, defending the bailouts “to make sure the economy doesn’t collapse.” – is that conservative? And our current Democratic President has expanded his War Powers –expanded the Drug War and signed a Health Care bill that actually ended up subsidizing the very Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries he said he aimed to punish. Are these liberal/progressive attributes?
So you love or hate Sarah Palin or Obama or Glenn Beck or Rachel Maddow or whoever, and you pick your side and dislike the other side. And there’s conformity and peer pressure to follow the party line on whatever issue your side is running with. If you cross sides, you are suspect. If you notice that war at least kills people, breaks things and is really expensive, well, you must be some hippie, tree-hugging commie-pinko. Or, if you consider that maybe there wouldn’t have been a BP oil spill if we hadn’t restricted coastal drilling, thereby pushing oil drillers out into the riskier deep-water regions, well, you are some right-wing environment hating misanthrope. Huh? Are we still on the: “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mantra?
Expecting everybody to get along in a diverse country is indeed too much to ask, and maybe it is hard to know who to trust, but can’t we look beyond the old broken labels and teams and think for ourselves?
2. State Sovereignty – We may have forgotten, but we have this thing called the U.S. Constitution, or so I’ve heard. When this country started, we had individual States that were sovereign political jurisdictions that voluntarily joined together to form a “Union.” And the Constitution forming that union delegates to the Feds only the powers Enumerated in Article I, Section 8 of that founding document. They even added a Bill of Rights right away to specifically protect personal freedoms, including the 9th and 10th amendments, which basically say that if they missed some protection here, even that power defaults to the People, or to the States making of the union. This was designed to keep the Feds from having Carte Blanc to do whatever the devil they want.
But the Feds now collect our tax money, then we send our members of Congress up to Washington to try to get some of it back, under certain conditions, with strings attached, and after administrative fees are deducted. And many Federal Agencies tell States and Municipalities (and the people in them) what to do, even though the Constitution allows them to do no such thing. And it becomes more imperative to get your guy elected (which logically attracts big money to do so), as the stakes for control of Washington are that much greater, as more things are determined there.
Therefore, I believe State Sovereignty is the #1 Liberty issue for 2011, as it is so over-arching to many of today’s problems:
Health Care legislation – the recent federal Health Care bill claims to help people, but where is this constitutionally authorized? States already have the power to implement universal health care systems if they choose to (like Massachusetts) or not (like Missouri’s Health Care Freedom Act, considered to be an act of Nullification).
Endless Wars & Military Spending – under a Constitutional military set-up there is no standing army and all service is voluntary. If the President wants to call up the military, he needs Congress to declare war (originally with Senators appointed by the State governments), and the individual States had to be convinced to provide troops, via their state militias. Peace advocates should consider states rights as a solution to their concerns. Security advocates should too: the Feds failed to prevent 9/11, the TSA is a joke, and Arizona now has to secure its own borders.
Education – Again, the Federal Dept of Education is nowhere authorized in the Constitution. Liberal/Progressives (and lots of other folks) didn’t like Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative. Conservatives (and others) are leery of Obama’s “Race to the Top.” People of all sorts should be looking for more local control (State, local, family) of education. Testing standards, school accreditation, and a million other criteria are all arguable issues, but at least let States determine this, instead of the Feds who brutally politicize the classroom.
War on Drugs – Whether you think Drugs are good or bad, where in the Constitution is Drug Prohibition authorized? At least alcohol prohibition was implemented by the amendment process and after it proved to be a disaster, was wisely repealed. Some Californians are trying to get some marijuana prohibitions removed (more Nullification). Even Christian Conservative Pat Robertson recently observed how the War on Drugs is tearing families apart and destroying lives (see video)
Sure, States aren’t perfect, and often do things they shouldn’t; but at least those decisions, for good or for bad, are made as close as possible to the people they effect. I need to elaborate on this more in the future…
3. “Think Globally, Act Locally” — Cliché, yes, but I do care about people in other parts of the world. At the same time, what to do about it? So many issues seem so Global or National in scale that it can make one person feel so small and insignificant, and powerless.
But you are significant to people you interact with on a regular basis, in person and in your own community. I feel Washington is so lost (and far away), but Jeff City is less than an hour’s drive away, and I travel by the county government buildings most every day, same with City Hall. I know people there, and they live in the same community as me. The stuff they decide affects me – in some ways more directly than the decisions made in far away capitols.
So I resolve to focus more on State and Local political matters in 2011 than ever before. The State government does and should determine a lot of things (see point #2 above). The new Boone County Presiding Commissioner, Ed Robb, could surely use an additional observer as could the Columbia City Council as they search for a new City Manager, or see what tax-incentivized business is brought to town next, or the next camera on some street corner. See, items of local interest abound!
4. I’m tired of Playing Defense – Oh there’s a real plethora of things to keep government accountable for. Like Food Bills, and TSA agents molesting people in airports, and huge Parking Garages built to largely sit empty — the list is endless… But don’t you get tired of just playing defense all the time?
Like in football (sports analogies are popular), if the other team always has ball possession, well, you’re defense is gonna get worn out – that’s a losing proposition. Athough I’m all for personal responsibility, we do need political leaders to protect our freedoms and it would be nice to have more leaders who consistently make GOOD policy, or provide oratory to inspire folks. Somebody to cheer for, or feel good about getting behind would sure be nice.
On November 27th, I posted on my Facebook page, in conjunction with a video link of Congressman Ron Paul proposing on the House floor a bill to remedy the TSA insanity that the whole country was outraged about at the time:
“You know what I want for Christmas? For there to develop a suitable peer to Ron Paul in Congress so I could watch somebody else’s video clips from the House floor that I could stand to listen to regularly. Which strikes me why Ron Paul supporters can seem cult-like: Ron Paul this, Ron Paul that. If the guy had somebody that knew [their] stuff near as well and was as articulate and passionate, well great, because (not that Dr. Paul is so unpleasant, but) I’d love to look at somebody else for a while, other than this elderly fellow, to get good speeches from inside the Federal Government.”
Well, his son, Rand has been elected from Kentucky to the Senate (Cheers, Breck!), and many of the new guys in both chambers are more liberty-oriented than every before –we’ll see what becomes of all that. Or, closer to home, our “Liberty Pal,” Tracy Ward, is running for City Council over in Kansas City and now Mitch Richards, one of our own local activists (& KCF organizing member), is throwing his hat into the ring running for 1st Ward City Council here in Columbia. What if we could influence and support local candidates for office?
I’d subscribe to these guys’ You-Tube Channels if I were you.
And local politics is more personable. In fact, I have been friends for several years with Fred Schmidt , also a 1st Ward Candidate; a fair-dealing, smart guy in his own right. See, that’s positive.
Overall, I found it far too easy to be negative in 2010. So in 2011, I will be more positive, think for myself in the swim against the mainstream left/right tide, stand up for Missouri, clarify my local focus, and proactively take it to the streets.
That’s my take. I respect your right to have your own priorities, but thanks for your consideration, nonetheless.
Happy New Year,
Steve Spellman is a life-long Boone County citizen and (among other things) hosts the “Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum,” exploring the diverse concepts of human freedom each Tuesday 5:00PM-6:00PM, on local community radio station 89.5FM KOPN (streaming at www.kopn.org/listen) in beautiful downtown Columbia, Missouri.
* The title is a take on the classic 1859 work “On Liberty” by English philosopher John Stuart Mill, to whom Steve admittedly does not hold a candle.