There's an old joke that goes something like this:
Man: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?
Woman: For that much money?!....Yes, I would.
Man: Would you sleep with me for a hundred thousand dollars?
Woman: I think I would.
Man: Would you sleep with me for a thousand dollars?
Woman: Well.... I don't know, but it's not out of the question.
Man: Would you sleep with me for twenty bucks?
Woman: Hey! What do you think I am, a whore?
Man: We've already established that. We're now just discussing your price.
And so goes our political discussion. We've politically prostituted ourselves and are now discussing the price for which we're willing to sell our liberty.
We can start with some of the most fundamental rights that we're willing to give away. The First Amendment guarantees our political speech. Yet, we've already ceded the discussion with McCain-Feingold and other campaign finance laws. McCain-Feingold limits who can say what when, with regard to political speech.
It was argued, as are all other campaign finance laws, that money corrupts and we need to get the money out of the campaigns. It's clear that the legislation hasn't even put a dent in the amount of money to be spent this election cycle.
To even entertain ideas that curtail what people can say, how they can say and how much they can spend saying it, is a violation of the First Amendment and an acceptance of the premise that the First Amendment doesn't really say what it says.
If we're worried about the issue, then the problem is a simple one to solve: who's giving how much to which candidate? The solution: complete transparency. No limits, but full disclosure of amounts and contributors.
It would be easy to see who has bought which politicians have been bought for how much - and in fact, Dr. Ron Paul has demonstrated that this works quite nicely. This method places no limitations, of any sort, on what is considered free political speech. This is a solution that doesn't accept the premises of most campaign finance laws.
We've even gone so far as to award damages because somebody says something offensive. Libel and slander are one thing, but the expression of political ideas, no matter how bigoted, hateful or just plain wrong accepts the premise that there are some limits on speech. We've lost the thought that we need to self-control our speech, as the government ought not.
What about the Second Amendment? Even the NRA has seemed to accept the premise that the amendment is about hunting and self-protection. From the NRA's "About" page:
These efforts include enacting laws that recognize the right of honest citizens to carry firearms for self-protection; preemption bills to prevent attacks on gun owner rights by local anti-gun politicians, and fighting for legislation to prevent the bankrupting of America's firearms industry through reckless lawsuits.
Most gun laws are designed to prevent crime. But they are ineffective, making it worse for those without guns. One only needs to look to Switzerland, where everybody has a gun, to see that the opposite is true - wide gun ownership by law-abiding citizens tremendously reduces crime.
The NRA even seems to miss the point that the Second Amendment is about protection of the people against government, or better said, it's the final check and balance against a federal government. They've accepted the premise that guns are about hunting, self-protection and state power.
Hamilton, writing in the Federalist No. 28 said:
That there may happen cases in which the national government may be necessitated to resort to force cannot be denied. Our own experience has corroborated the lessons taught by the examples of other nations; that emergencies of this sort will sometimes exist in all societies, however constituted; that seditions and insurrections are, unhappily, maladies as inseparable from the body politic as tumors and eruptions from the natural body; that the idea of governing at all times by the simple force of law (which we have been told is the only admissible principle of republican government) has no place but in the reveries of these political doctors whose sagacity disdains the admonitions of experimental instruction...
[T]he people, without exaggeration, may be said to be entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress. How wise will it be in them by cherishing the union to preserve to themselves an advantage which can never be too highly prized!
Clearly, the intent of the amendment was to provide the citizenry with the ability to overthrow a tyrannical government. Any other arguments are changing the premise of the original discussion.
For the last example of many, let's turn to Social Security. Scragged has already written much about this program, and proposed several solutions.
Of these, only Option #4 - recognition that it's not supposed to be the government's responsibility to provide a retirement for everybody - goes back to the original premise that government is to be limited and not provide welfare. Madison's veto of a public works bill makes it clear that the "general welfare" clause doesn't mean the welfare of individuals.
In the case of Social Security the horse has left the barn, as it were. In fact, most of the barn is empty as the horses of Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Pell grants, etc. have all been freed to eat at the public prairie. Horses might be a bad analogy here, as these programs are more like sheep ready to eat the grass to the ground leaving nothing behind.
It almost doesn't matter what the topic is, the argument may already be lost. We've already established there is little national virtue left. We're now just talking about the price.
But when I look at my tax bill, I get the feeling we're paying for a high-priced callgirl, and instead getting somebody from the back alley.
The only way this can change, is by refusing to accept the choices offered, and returning to the first principles described so eloquently by our Founders.