Clarifying A Knotty Problem

A Knotty Problem

(photo credit)

Article contributed by “The Ed”

I love clarity.  One of the most clarifying notions I have is the knowledge that freedom and responsibility are a marriage made in heaven and a divorce decree from hell. Separate them and bad things happen.  We Americans are free to drive millions of miles each year.  What happens when we do not accept the responsibility to drive sober?  Casualties happen.  And the response to secure ourselves from the neglected responsibility to drive sober is an infringement on our freedoms in the form of more police patrols and more sobriety checkpoints.

The right to keep and bear arms is a right for self-protection.  American citizens own many different kinds of weapons.  We have just been through a period where the Columbine, the Virginia Tech, the Gabby Gifford, the Oregon Mall, the AuroraTheater, and the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings have occurred.  Now there is a clamor for more protection from such people and a clamor to cut back on the second amendment right to keep and bear arms in response to the abuse of our second amendment rights.

Uniting these two examples is a maxim: Rights carry responsibilities.  When the responsibilities associated with those rights are abused or neglected bad things happen.  When those bad things happen, those in authority tend to cut back those rights for everybody.  When responsibility is abused or neglected, freedom suffers.

There is a huge debate raging in America about what to do about the deficit spending.  Now we have Congress spending money without a plan (they have not had a budget since the Bush administration). Three fifths of what Congress has been spending lately has been from tax receipts.  Two fifths comes from debt financing.  It is safe to say that Congress has been very free spending money and Congress is not spending the public dollar responsibly.  Congress has done more than merely neglecting its fiscal responsibility.  Congress has abandoned it altogether.  This is a divorce decree from hell for the American people.

Bad things are happening.  When Congress spends money, whether it comes from tax receipts or deficit financing or inflation, it comes from the economy.  It comes from the American public.  Our economy is heavily burdened and it is suffering.  Think about this.  The right to own property is in the Constitution. On the other hand, the government has the right to tax. (Just ask Supreme Court Justice Roberts.)  At what point, with the government taking income, SS, MC taxes directly, borrowing money to take it from the American public’s future, or printing money to take it through inflation, are we, the citizens of the US, right to say that the government has gone too far?

Congress is spending irresponsibly.  Now the curtailment of freedom comes.  We, the American public have to pay the bill for our Congressional profligate spending. Whether that bill comes due as taxes, debt or inflation, our collective wealth will be taken from us.  So should we, the American people, allow our property rights to be infringed?   Or do we want to see our irresponsible representatives curtailed from their freedom to spend? Congress is the body that behaved irresponsibly. I want to see Congress’s freedom to spend curtailed.

I wish that we could simply throw the bums out.  But the influence of this country’s special interest groups is too great.  They spend millions of dollars to influence elections.  So that when the time comes to decide where the public’s money should be spent, Congress is representing the special interests and nobody is at the table representing the American public.  No, we won’t curtail Congress’s freedom to wantonly spend the public’s money by throwing the bums out.  We have to curtail their ability to spend.  I want limits on Congress’s freedom to spend.  They are the ones who are abusing and neglecting their fiscal responsibility.

I would suggest a balanced budget amendment if I thought for one minute that it would work.  It won’t.  Congressmen get elected and stay in office by serving their constituent special interests.  The three branches of government were given enumerated powers in the Constitution.  The Tenth Amendment says it clearly that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States are reserved to the States or the people.   Congressmen can only serve their constituents by stretching their constitutional authority well beyond what is written in the Constitution.  For this reason, people who are even marginally considered Constitutionalists seldom get elected to Congress.  When asked where the constitutional authority for Obamacare came from most Congressmen could not answer.  A few said it comes from the general welfare clause of the Constitution.  With such interpretations of the general welfare clause, Congress does not have to worry about limits placed on it by the Constitution.  And if Congress does not have to worry about limits placed on it by the Constitution, a balanced budget amendment, just like the Tenth Amendment, means nothing.

ClarityAnd now a final note of clarity:  Abuse or neglect of responsibility has to have consequences to the perpetrators or it means nothing.  Perhaps the states can impose on their elected representatives one day of hard labor for every billion dollars he or she authorizes with their votes that is over tax receipts.  This is said in jest since Congress would simply write a law forbidding the states from such action.  They would call it unconstitutional citing cruel and unusual punishment.

(photo credit)


About Necessary and Proper

Jeff believes in the Individual's ability to excel when liberty and freedom of choice are protected. Also believes in the Community's ability to take care of the vast majority of its own issues and needs when the federal government leaves the Community's resources and sphere of control alone. State and local choice produce better results than centralized federal control.
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8 Responses to Clarifying A Knotty Problem

  1. J.C. Rutherford says:

    It seems as though the major players in our government today enjoy the positional authority they have attained, either through elections or by appointmentment. The sad thing is, they don’t seem to understand the concept of responsibility going hand-in-hand with authority. The departing Sec. of State has shown that while she says she is responsible for what happened in Benghazi, she has not truly stepped up to the plate, but tried to divert our sympathies toward her through over-acted bursts of emotion. I certainly wish I could enjoy the same level of accountability with my creditors!
    I’ve included here an excerpt from a newsletter article I wrote some years ago when we were having a particularly difficult time with some of the political decisions the elected officials of the fire department i worked for had to make. See what you think!

    “First let’s define accountability:

    Noun 1. accountability – responsibility to someone or for some activity
    answerability, answerableness
    responsibleness, responsibility – a form of trustworthiness; the trait of being answerable to someone for something or being responsible for one’s conduct; “he holds a position of great responsibility”.

    Hmmm! Looks like there’s several words that mean the same thing: Responsibility; Answerability. These words can be used interchangeably, but they all boil down to the same thing – being responsible to someone or for an activity. Culpability.

    It’s been said in many of these meetings that accountability begins at the top. I know this, because every time that phrase is used, the fingers on the outstretched arms point to the front of the room, where the people who are most accountable sit: the top of the organization, the “leaders” if you will. It must be them; they have the title. Those guys have all of the answers and all of the responsibility for what goes on in the organization. They are what the organization is made of, good or bad.

    Let’s examine that concept in a couple of different contexts. One of the most publicized accountability cases in recent history is being examined as you read this. I recently watched a Presidential speech at the end of which he was asked if he felt any accountability for what happened on 9/11. This came on the heels of revelations that many governmental agencies faltered in providing the Nation’s top official with good intelligence to base his decisions on.

    Of course, everyone has their own opinion about where the accountability should lay for all of these faults. The President, by virtue of his position is accountable to the Country to ensure that his administration is running the way it should according to the Constitution, the Laws of the Land, and the Will of the People. These topics will feed debate for a long time to come.

    But, let’s look at the specific question: “Do you feel any accountability for 9/11?” Over 3000 people lost their lives, 343 of them our brothers in service. Can you imagine the weight of this question? The implications? How should he have responded? I believe he responded the only way he could: “Osama bin Laden is responsible (accountable) for those attacks.”

    He put the accountability into perspective. He may be responsible for the faults of the governmental systems that failed to detect the pending attacks but the real answer to the question asked was right on. The ultimate responsibility is not transferable. It lies where it is.

    And so it goes for a Captain of a ship at sea. It is well known that he is ultimately responsible for what happens to his ship and to his crew. If the ship is going to sink, tradition says the Captain must go down with his ship in the ultimate show of accountability. This is not questioned. It comes with the job. But where does that accountability really begin?

    Does the mess cook who cleans the dishes have any accountability? Why, yes we say, he is accountable to make the dishes clean so we don’t get sick. Simple enough. But if he’s not accountable, crewmembers become ill and can’t do their jobs.

    The man on the throttles in the engine room is accountable to ensure that the correct engine speed is answered. If he fails to be accountable to that, he may miss a bell change and cause the ship to come into port too fast, crashing into the pier and causing lots of damage and maybe injuring people in the process. Does he have accountability to be diligent at his watch station? You bet he does.

    The Navigator has accountability to ensure that he provides the best navigation information available. If he misses a critical Notice to Mariners that adds a buoy to mark a shoal in the path the ship intends to take, the ship runs aground. The Captain is ultimately responsible for all of these actions, but it seems obvious to me that there is accountability at all levels.

    How can we as fire service personnel relate to this? I think that if you look hard, the answers are simple.

    What would happen if the recruit didn’t have accountability to his recruit company? He’d fail key classes, and would be virtually useless to us on a call, and we’d most likely have to provide him a babysitter to keep him from getting hurt.

    What would happen if the pump operator was not accountable? The water would fail to come out of the business end of the nozzle and we would not be able to effectively put the fire out, and maybe hurt firefighters in the process.

    What would happen if the EMT was not accountable for the protocols? The patient would end up with poor care, and could possibly die, before he even had a chance at the hospital.

    Accountability at these levels is obviously not transferable, but if each member fails to exercise accountability at what they do, we fail as an organization.

    It rapidly becomes apparent that, not only is there accountability at the top, but there is equal accountability, relative to the nature of the job, up and down the chain of command. The responsibility is different at each level, but accountability is the constant factor that should be in place.

    The strength of any organization is a result of how accountability is managed. It seems the easy thing to do to point that outstretched finger at the front of the room and defiantly proclaim that whoever is sitting up there “needs to be more accountable”. The hard part comes in a different way, and is the real strength in how the organization is perceived.

    I believe that the accountability in any organization is at every level. I had an interesting conversation with a member in which he pointed that finger above him and said, “this officer has not been accountable. He’s hasn’t been here lately.” My question to him was “Were you accountable to him to find out why?” He responded that his officer was involved in a big project at work. The question then was “What did you do to offer your help in his absence? Were you accountable to him as a member of his crew?” “Well, no not really” was the reply. What really happens is the easy thing to do, go into the dayroom and declare to anyone who will listen that this guy’s not doing his job!

    The easy thing to do is to point the finger in the other direction, but in this case where the organization may have benefited was if that member had asked himself how he could help out in this particular case. Maybe he could have inspired some of his company members to do what they needed to do, even if the leader could not be accountable to them at the time. Maybe he failed to do that, but the accountability to his company is real. Not transferable. So the organization suffers; runs aground, if you will.”

    Maybe we should all take a look at who and why we elect our government.


  2. The Ed says:

    In the case of Congress, we have to ask, “To whom are they responsible? The answer is clear. They are responsible to the donors that got them elected. The office is just a tool for them to accomplish the goals of their constituent donors. This responsibility seems to supersede the responsibility to the Constitution, the voters, and the states that they represent.


  3. stephnelson says:

    The Ed,
    Great article! I agree completely with you. Well written. I hope to see a day when Americans will freely embrace that “rights carry responsibilities.” I am pretty sure that I heard that all throughout my childhood from my parents. But Congress surely has no clue of it for the most part. And there is a generation becoming adults (and newly graduated into adulthood) who have no concept of it.

    My husband sometimes eats a slice of pie before dinner and when our five year old whines dramatically (love her!!) that “she should get some too, because Daddy is having some,” we take the opportunity to tell her, “Darling, when you are an adult, you can eat pie before dinner every day of your life.” Not that it’s wise to do so, but it is perhaps a “right” that comes with being an adult.

    Obviously there are many responsibilities that come with adulthood, as we both know. But in my opinion, too many kids are, and have been, allowed pie whenever they want, which causes them to have no reason to look forward to the privileges of adulthood, (why bother with the responsibility gig when I get the pie anyway?!) And they think they “have a right to pie” whenever they want it.

    I hope to see some changes come to Congress. And to American parenting. Our future surely depends on it!

    Nice to “meet” you! I eagerly anticipate your contributions here on Jeff’s blog.

    – Steph


    • The Ed says:

      Thanks Steph,

      Unfortunately you are right about American parenting. When my daughter was in high school, in the crowd she ran with, the position on the totem pole depended on how indulgent the parents were. The movie “Mean Girls” was a reality. I thank God she is past that and doing well.

      It will get better eventually but America has a price to pay.

      The Ed


      • stephnelson says:

        The Ed,
        That’s terrible about your daughter! I know our culture exalts youth, but I would NEVER choose to re-live high school. Blech. I am glad she came out unscathed.

        – S


      • Ed, I wanted to make sure you knew that you’re already sparking the intellectual synergy that makes blogging so rewarding. Please check out Steph’s latest article (Entitled to Pie), which her mind grew out of the seed corn that you watered. Congratulations.
        – Jeff


        • stephnelson says:


          Thanks to The Ed for writing such a thought-provoking article! 🙂

          That is definitely the beauty of blogging and reading other people’s pieces. Sudden and unexpected inspiration. Quite invaluable.

          – S


  4. The Ed says:

    Thanks, it is good to have an impact.


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