The word paradigm describes the normalcy bias (the mental state) in which a person sees the world. For instance, Pollyanna’s paradigm was to see only the good. Paradigms can be shared - America’s founders shared a view of America as The Land of Opportunity with no class differences and a limited government. The basis for this shared paradigm was later explained in 1833 by Joseph Story in his Commentaries on the Constitution, in which he defined the separation of powers between the federal government and the states. According to Joseph Story, the federal government’s powers are to be outwardly focused, while the state governments focus inwardly:
“Another not unimportant consideration is that the powers of the general government will be, and indeed must be, principally employed upon external objects, such as war, peace, negotiations with foreign powers, and foreign commerce. In its internal operations it can touch but few objects, except to introduce regulations beneficial to the commerce, intercourse, and other relations, between the states, and to lay taxes for the common good. The powers of the states, on the other hand, extend to all objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, and liberties, and property of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state. “ --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
Joseph Story’s description of America’s shared paradigm was based on a Constitution that prohibited the federal government from interfering in the internal affairs of the people, a Constitution that mandated ten specific freedoms (the Bill of Rights) that were retained by the people, and a Constitution that specifically prohibited any laws that contained privileges ("entitlements to immunity") for specific groups or individuals:
“No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” – The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9.
In addition, Alexander Hamilton promised that any law in violation of the Constitution would be declared unconstitutional, invalid, and null-and-void:
“No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.” --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 78
America’s shared paradigm was confirmed when the authority of the Constitution and Hamilton’s promise were twice validated by the Supreme Court:
“All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.” -- 1803 Supreme Court, Marbury v. Madison
“An unconstitutional act is not law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties, affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation, as inoperative as though it had never been passed.” -- 1886 Supreme Court, Norton v. Shelby County
However, as generations passed, America’s shared paradigm began to be incrementally changed in subtle ways. The federal government began encroaching on the internal powers of the states by passing laws of assistance - welfare entitlements for the states to administer. And because of the circumstances, the normalcy bias (the mental state of the people) prohibited them from seeing the constitutional violations and the threat to their freedoms. They underestimated both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects.
Slowly, American’s shared paradigm changed to what exists today – a land of entitlements and guarantees administered by a federal government with power over the "lives, liberties and properties" and "the internal order, improvements and prosperity" originally retained by the states. And this happened because the federal government has amassed power by taking an "evolving" view of the Constitution. A recent example of this growing federal action is the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Health care of the people is an internal issue reserved for the states, yet the federal government is insisting that it has a proper and even essential role in this sphere. The Supreme Court has found a way to defend this legislation by redefining it as a tax and justifying it under a broad concept of taxing authority.
“An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation” -- John Marshall, McCullough v. Maryland, 1819
To grow its power, the federal government gave up fiscal responsibility in order to create a nation of people dependent on its handouts. And this irresponsible agenda has brought America to a point of monetary default and economic collapse – which according to Alexander Fraser Tytler, is what always causes a democracy to collapse.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loss of fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship.” --The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic by Alexander Fraser Tytler, 1776
A paradigm shift occurs as a result of the emotional violation of the normalcy bias: reality brings about an epiphany. America will certainly encounter a paradigm shift when Americans are faced with the reality that the desegregation of power between the federal government and states has slowly stripped away our liberty. The only question is whether the shift will occur before federalism has given up its last breath.
Can we save our American liberties? The answer is yes! But our mechanism for the change is not yet known. We do know that according to Lincoln, we have two options.
"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it." -- Lincoln’s 1st Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861
Lincoln’s option 1, the exercise of our constitutional rights to change the government, can only occur if a sufficient number of the population experiences their emotional epiphany in time. Right now all we can do is continue to expose the despots and wait for a sufficient number of epiphanies. The trigger could be any number of things: the collapse of Obamacare, the collapse of the stock market, a declaration of martial law, or perhaps one principled Congressman or Judge standing tall and confessing the unconstitutional acts that have been forced on the American people. The question is how long it will take for America’s paradigm to realign with a proper Constitutional division of power between the federal government and the states.
American complacency has allowed the Land of Opportunity paradigm to be covertly changed into a Land of Entitlements paradigm. To accomplish this, the federal government bankrupted the nation. As a result, another paradigm shift is swiftly approaching – only this time it will occur due to the people having an emotional epiphany. This time the paradigm shift will be loud and clear – not slow and subtle.
Jack T. Beavers is an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Consultant with a BS in Chemical Engineering (BSChE), a Professional Engineering (PE) license, a Certification in Business Management (CBM), and a Certification as an Internal Control Specialist (CICS). He has previously held a Certification as an ISO-9000 Internal Auditor – and his work history includes Enterprise Risk Assessment responsibilities as a Manager of Internal Audit. Please email your comments to email@example.com.
The CJS Forum seeks to promote an open exchange of ideas about the relationship between faith, culture, law and public policy. While all the articles are original and written especially for the CJS Forum, they do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for a Just Society.