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There are, I suspect, many people who confuse America --this beautiful and bounteous land with which we are blessed--with the United States , that corporation calling itself the government, which owns and operates it through its front men, those windbags in Washington . That's a shame, because one's natural love for the country rubs off on the United States, so to speak, tending to give it (notice how the 'United States' is always singular!) a respectability which it does not deserve.

The recognition of a distinction between the U.S. and the country can make one uneasy. Can one love one's country, and not respect the state? Can you call yourself a patriotic American and distrust the U.S. ?

What little remains of the basic principles of American life: freedom of speech and association, private property, the sanctity of contracts, the rule of law, etc., is quickly disappearing under the Obama reign. Americans will eventually have to confront the dilemma: freedom, or adherence to the 'law.'

I checked with the law dictionary to confirm what I suspected: the word 'legitimate' is a synonym for 'lawful,' or 'legal.' I also looked up 'government,' and found, among the many definitions associated with that word, 'governmental action.' It is defined as any action of the federal government authorized by the Constitution, with several court citations to support that definition. So it is logical to conclude that a legitimate government is one that acts within its own Constitution and the laws made pursuant to it.

That presents a problem. A legitimate government obeys the laws, but that selfsame government makes the laws. What is so difficult about obeying your own laws? And how can a government be criticized for lawlessness, when it can simply make laws to justify its actions? After all, 'blacks in the back of the bus' was the 'law.' I would be willing to bet that most of the actions of the Nazis, or the Communists, at least in the beginning, were according to the laws which they had made. Slavery, in this country, as in others, was utterly lawful.

Even worse, however, than the sham of a government piously claiming adherence to laws of its own making, which shouldn't exist in the first place, is the action of government unsupported by any laws whatsoever--bogus or not.

The Supreme Law in this country, we are told, is the Constitution. Imperfect though it may be, that Constitution, if adhered to, would restrict the growth of the state, which inevitably results in a diminution of freedom. So the state simply ignores the Constitution. Evidence of that is abundant, but let me cite a few instances for the skeptical.

The Constitution prohibits the states from making anything other than gold and silver a legal tender. That simple provision alone, had it been taken seriously, would have prevented the economic catastrophe which now confronts us. The Constitution acknowledges the right of the people to bear arms, a right which is not to be impaired. Try to buy a gun, and see how impaired your right is! Try to buy an automatic weapon, and find that you may have no right at all. Try to obtain the privacy in your papers and documents which the Constitution guarantees, if the IRS comes snooping around. See if you truly have the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of speech, if you decide you want to say nothing when some official demands your Social Security number.

The so-called 'birthers,' who question the legitimacy of an Obama presidency based upon their reasonable doubt that he was born in this country, are ridiculed. 'So what if he was born in Africa ' is the refrain from the establishment, both 'conservative' and 'liberal.' But the significance of the question of his birth is simply this: Either his presidency conforms to the law, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then what's the point of the law? If it can be set aside when deemed necessary (by the rulers, not you or me!) then the concept of the protection of the law evaporates.

So: if governmental action is NOT in accord with the Constitution, is the government legitimate? The question is rhetorical, surely.

If a government is not legitimate, can it command your obedience? Were the victims of Al Capone's extortion efforts in any way obligated to yield to his demands? True, those demands were not backed by any law save that of the gun, but how does that differ from demands made by an organizations which has thousands of laws, but pays no heed to those which might impair it, and makes new 'laws' to justify itself.

The state Constitution of Missouri contains these stirring words: 'That the people of this state have the inherent, sole and exclusive right--to alter and abolish their Constitution and form of government whenever they may deem it necessary to their safety and happiness'.' The Declaration of Independence contains a similar sentiment. If the organizations which publish such ideals and claim to believe them actually took them seriously, they'd disband themselves without the necessity of the people rising up and doing it for them.

But, of course, they are not going to do that. I guess that means it's up to us. How much respect is owed an illegitimate government?

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 150