Sunday, January 26, 2014

Americans Are Born Free, Europeans Are Born Illegals

In America people are born free, meaning it is assumed things are permitted until there is a law that prohibits it. In continental Europe and many other countries things are forbidden until the state says it's permitted



Dan Hannan MEP about liberty in Europe and America at the Heritage Foundation (shorter version in Melbourne)

A new book, "How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters ", written by the Libertarian MEP Dan Hannan @DanHannanMEP illustrates a major difference in the perception of freedom on the continental Europe, as opposed to Great Britain and the Anglophone countries. It points out the differences in the way Americans have always looked at freedom versus the way it's always been looked at in Europe and most other countries. It's fundamental and the best way to illustrate it is this. In the United States, citizens presume that everything is legal until a law is written making it illegal. It's something that is taught, but it's also something that is simply assumed.

Americans are born free

So important is freedom to Americans, it is precisely defined and spelled out in the founding documents. Americans are born free, that's the natural spirit, the natural human spirit, and everything's assumed legal until there's a law saying it isn't.

But you go to Europe and many other parts around the world, and the presumption is just the opposite. It is that everything is illegal until there's a law making it legal. It illustrates why and how so many people are totally subservient to the state. When you assume as an individual that everything is illegal until somebody makes it legal, you are essentially denying -- whether you know it or not -- the basic tenets of freedom as you are born.

It also leads to statism. It leads to all-powerful governments. It leads to people giving up freedom and assuming, in fact, that they never had it, that freedom is what is given to them by the state. The belief that the state's infallible, whatever the state says, be it the United Nations, be it the government, be it the president, whatever the governing authority says is, is accepted without question.

Authorities are right

With the exception of the NSA scandal they believe everything any professor says about global warming. They believe anything the United Nations says about it without questioning it. Because they believe the people involved in this are just like them: Upper crust, elite, scientific oriented. "Scientists don't lie. Science isn't lies, blah blah blah," and so the same people who will intellectually be suspicious of spying by the government via the NSA, on anything else the government's infallible.

Freedom is hard to sell.  It's not just that with freedom comes individual responsibility and self-reliance. Those are, no question, daunting things to a lot of people. It's easier to be dependent. It's easier to count on somebody else rather than yourself -- and ultimately, it's easier to blame somebody else when you fail, rather than blame yourself. So you get reliance on the state and the quasi-acceptance of freedom.

Our future hinges on this. Our future hinges on how the people view freedom, and if more and more of them adopt the European attitude. They get the order wrong. If they assume that everything is illegal until a government or a parliament or a law comes along and makes it legal, then what is their starting point? Their starting point is, they have no freedom. The only freedom they have is that bestowed upon them by the state, by the central authority, by the munificence and the magnificence and the goodwill of the state.

What is the source of the law? 

Where do our laws come from? What is it? If the starting point is that everything's legal until we pass a law saying it isn't, and then it's not, it is our culture, therefore, that will be the single most relevant defining character. Our culture will define for us what's right, wrong, good, bad, good, evil, legal, illegal, and so forth.

Whereas the other viewpoint, everything is illegal? The human being is totally subservient to whatever the state decrees the human being to do. Have you ever run into people who are afraid to violate any -- no matter how small -- restriction, law, tenet or whatever because of abject either fear or an inordinate faith and respect for governing authorities? You run into these people all the time, and they are really threatened when there is opposition to what the state has said is illegal or legal.

Here is an example, this incandescent lightbulb. It's absolutely fatuous and silly and based on fraudulent science. It's simply science masquerading as politics, the idea that the incandescent lightbulb is causing global warming. We have these compact fluorescents. That's crony capitalism (or corporatism, or fascism).

The compact fluorescent lobby has succeeded in greasing the skids of politicians, so we got a ban on the Edison lightbulb. And the people at large simply accept it. This is about attitude, particularly among the young, this blind acceptance that whatever the state says is gospel and you better obey.

Laws and regulations

In Europe we never see our laws, but in the US laws are stacks of pages, some of which are three-inches high (photo), passed by Congress and signed by the president into law. And then there were three stacks six-feet high of regulations written by the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) and other bureaucracies which had not followed the legal process. They were just regulations that had become law and nobody had the opportunity to say "no," and it was extra-constitutional.

These various bureaucracies do not have the right to regulate us the way they do, and the number of laws that we have is obscene anyway. You put that relatively small stack up against three, six-foot-high stacks of regulations just in this year, by the way, or last year. Daunting, is what it is.

Here's an illustration of this. A story from the French News Agency: 202 million people globally are unemployed. I don't know on what basis that's decided, because there are billions and billions and billions of people, but we'll just accept the number: 202 million people globally are unemployed. Well 92 million, almost half of them, are in the United States. How can that be? How in the world can that be while the economy is supposed to be growing and there's 44 months of job growth (as Obama told David Remnick).

Extra-Constitutional regulations

The photograph of all of the new regulations added to the Federal Register last year versus the number of pages of new real law was provided by Senator Mike Lee. What you see is a bookshelf, a glass case bookshelf with two and a half stacks of regulations that just became law without going through Congress, without being signed by the president, just virtual decrees by various bureaucracies.

In the upper right-hand corner as you look at this, on top of the bookcase you will see a very small stack of paper. That small stack is actual new laws that were passed in 2013. This does not include Obamacare. That was in 2010. Those two and a half stacks of paper are regulations that became law simply by decree from the EPA, the FCC, the FAA, you name it.

And up there in the upper right-hand corner are the actual new laws. Eighty thousand pages of new regulations in the Federal Register last year. Most people don't even know that this has happened, not even aware. Senator Mike Lee put this together. Most people are not even aware of it and they don't think there's anything they can do about it when they find out.

But it's nothing new, it happens every year. This, again, goes to the whole concept of American exceptionalism: in the US people are born free, and the presumption is that everything is legal until a law is passed saying that it isn't. Furthermore, it is cultural experience, morality and so forth, from which our laws spring, not authoritarianism, not statism. That's what's so different about Obama.

The US now has statism and authoritarianism. Half these regulations are Obama's. By the way, those do not even include executive orders. The rest of the world is born thinking everything's illegal. They are born criminals. They are born in violation of the law. Until their state says something is legal, everything's illegal. Imagine that.

Why Freedom matters

On AdamSmith.org there's a piece written by Dr. Eamonn Butler, who is reading Daniel Hannan's new book, "How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters" And here's the passage that alerted Dr. Butler.

"The response is always the same: 'But the old system was unregulated!' The idea that absence of regulation might be a natural state of affairs is seen as preposterous." Meaning in Socialist totalitarian countries, the idea of no regulation, no rules? What? That's preposterous. We can't have that. There have to be rules!
"In Continental usage, 'unregulated' and 'illegal' are much closer concepts than in places where lawmaking happens in English." 
And Dr. Butler says:
"This is a profound point. We've all heard about the differences between British (specifically, English) and Continental Law. In English, Common Law, rules are decided by courts in response to some 'specific problem' arising. In Continental, Roman Law, rules are laid down by the authorities. So in Britain, things are presumed to be permitted unless there is a law to stop them. On the Continent, things are presumed to be prohibited unless there is a law to allow them." 
Europe's and America's left and leftists all over the world subscribe to the belief that everything is illegal until they say it's okay. You have lawyers and lawmakers who end up believing that nothing's legal until they proclaim it.

Law shapes culture, or does culture dictate law? 

It is fashionable among egalitarian relativists to say there is no real difference between the left and the right. Well, here's one. The left believe that law shapes culture, except in an authoritarian state where the ruler would use law backed by force to dictate to the majority, that the state deducts right and wrong. The state dictates what's criminal and what isn't. In free societies however culture dictates what the law is, not the other way around.

Verdicts and Court Rulings aren't Liberty or even democracy. They are dictates by an independent arm of the state! They rule on law, not on morality. In a free country the state does not regulate morality. This is key and where 'moral law' goes off the deep end.

From the presumption that the state knows everything, that we are born illegal until the state okays our behavior, specific behavior, or the state has the total authority to proclaim something legal, how do we get to the point where every piece of controversial law or every controversial issue ends up being proclaimed legal or illegal by Judges?

And look at the willingness of so many people to accept it. The Supreme Court or the European Court of Human Rights is the final authority. Well, why? Particularly if a decision comes that's in direct contravention with our cultures. It's one of the reasons why our societies are so embattled.

Adapted from "Our Future Hinges on Our View of Freedom", audio by Rush Limbaugh (transcript)

Note from the editor: inherent freedom is an inalienable, natural right. But 'freedom' by the state is a temporary privilege. What the state gives today, the state takes tomorrow. 




"How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters "











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