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Friday, December 10, 2004

Public Opinion Problems

Unrestrained public opinion is mobocracy, in effect, rioting and looting in slow motion.

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Yesterday’s posting, The UN and Public Opinion, observed that, for liberal-socialists, manipulation of domestic and world opinion is a weapon of war against spiritual religion, morality, and civic virtue.  Liberals aim to gut the Constitution by promoting false opinion.

Aristotle noted that, with respect to virtues, excesses become vices.  Too little courage is cowardice; too much is foolhardiness.  Public opinion also requires careful moderation, coupled with education that fairly and fully presents all sides of public issues.  Perhaps every vote should be counted, but there is no assurance that public opinion influencing those votes represents wisdom or virtue.

Our Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights, were intended to protect individual liberties and private property from what Alexis de Tocqueville, in “Democracy in America,” called tyranny of the majority.  The majority was not to be allowed to seize the property or trample the rights of individuals simply because of numerical voting strength. 

Certain rights were considered inviolable.  Anything less would be to legitimize what would amount to a mob looting in slow motion, sanctioned by legislation or judicial fiat.

Two examples will illustrate distortion of public opinion: the idea of equality and the process of amending the Constitution

First, liberal academics and intellectuals teach students that the War of Independence in 1776 was fought for the purpose of creating equality among American citizens.  Having indoctrinated students since the 1920s, educators and liberal politicians have by now succeeded in creating a public opinion that such was the case.

The reality, of course, is that the war was waged over arbitrary use of Parliament’s power to infringe private property rights with heavy taxation and seizures of private property to support British troops in North America. 

Samuel Adams, the organizer of the colonial committees of correspondence, was said to have been the most influential single person in mobilizing public sentiment for the first Continental Congress, which eventually led to the war.  He noted that colonists’ resistance to high taxes imposed without their consent was a repetition of the reactions in England that led to two major elements of the British constitution: the 1628 Petition of Right and the 1689 Bill of Rights.

The Federalist Papers, written in 1787 and 1788 to argue for ratification of the Constitution, are considered to be the most authoritative exposition of the minds of the writers of the Constitution.  In Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

“I propose, in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars: .... and lastly, the additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty, and to property.”

In Federalist No. 10, James Madison wrote:

“The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government….

“[In a pure democracy] A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”

Contrast this to a typical liberal-socialist view, in this case expressed by Walter Cronkite, a revered icon of liberalism.  Either from ignorance or cynical intent, Mr. Cronkite last year wrote in his opinion column, stating it as a fact, that “We [journalists] reached our intellectual adulthood with daily close-ups of the inequality in a nation that was founded on the commitment to equality for all.”

The second example of deliberately distorted public understanding is the doctrine that the Constitution evolves in Darwinian fashion, that it is effectively amended by a process of natural selection in changing public opinion.  This is the basis for the most contentious and divisive judicial decisions, prime among them Roe v. Wade and the issue of same-sex marriage, which doubtless will reach the Supreme Court in the near future. 

The argument is that the method of amendment prescribed in Article V of the Constitution is too cumbersome and too time-consuming. 

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, our first socialist on the United States Supreme Court, wrote that there is no such thing as a higher law of morality.  The truth, he wrote, is simply whatever comes to be accepted as public opinion.  If public opinion supports converting our government to Bolshevik communism, he said, then neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court should stand in the way.

Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, in “We the People,” defended the New Deal?s trampling traditional constitutional boundaries between state and Federal functions, as well as the Supreme Court?s making private property rights subordinate under the Bill of Rights to other previously co-equal rights.  His rationale was that FDR?s 1936 re-election triumph, with substantial majorities in Congress, was an expression of public opinion so overwhelming that it constituted a de facto amendment of the Constitution. 

As noted constitutional law scholar Edward S. Corwin put it, the question in 1937 was whether the Supreme Court would abandon historical legal doctrines to fall into line with the radical policies of the New Deal, or whether we had to depend upon the ??cumbersome, undemocratic, and well?nigh unworkable process of constitutional amendment.?

In 1944, as World War II was winding down and public attention turned to the prospective structure of international relations in the post-war world, liberal-socialists again revived their dream of a world socialist government, what was later to become the UN. 

Jerome S. Bruner, at that time, was editor of Princeton’s “The Public Opinion Quarterly.”  In his essay “Public Opinion and the Peace,” he wrote of the need for “a vigorous and enlightened” Federal agency to advocate creating a new version of the failed League of Nations.  Liberals insisted that the League’s failure was caused by the Senate’s refusal to ratify the League treaty after World War I. 

The Constitution’s Article II, Section 2, says regarding the powers of the President, “He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties…”

Mr. Bruner, opined, “...public opinion on questions of foreign policy is more vigorous and forward-looking than is has ever been before.”  Thus, he wrote, “The time has come when the ratification of treaties can no longer be left safely in the hands of the Senate.  Now that foreign policy is becoming a matter of immediate concern to all, it is abundantly clear that one third plus one man of the Senate should not be allowed to block measures which represent the public will.”

Today, liberal-socialists are pushing another “amendment” of the Constitution by force of ignorant public opinion:  scrapping the Constitution’s Article II, Section 1, which establishes the electoral college as the method of selecting the President of the United States. 

One intent of the electoral college was to preserve the rights of small states against tyranny of the majority in more populous states.  Blue-state liberal-socialists no doubt will continue to push for electing the President solely on the popular vote, until the day when socialist welfare measures and high taxes will have reduced their East Coast and Left Coast bastions to minority population status.