A Federalist Christmas

My monthly column in the current Rhode Island Catholic reviews the Commerce Clause, government spending, and the Fourteenth Amendment as contributors to trends that are transforming Christmas into a private affair:

The underlying assumption that an atheist should feel as at home as an orthodox Roman Catholic in any corner of the nation is at odds with the brilliant experiment that the Founders initiated. True civic freedom — truly representative government — must include the right to construct a community that reflects its members’ unique values. Furthermore, a dynamic society requires that its citizens be able to escape from communities with uncongenial values to others that are substantively different, without disclaiming their national identity.
Americans who want their towns to resemble a Norman Rockwell vision of the Christmas season have no right to threaten or disenfranchise the skeptics and gadflies in their midst. The gadflies, in turn, should have no recourse to the swamps of Washington, D.C., for a Grinch’s veto.

A resident of any town, state, or nation should have recourse to due process should he or she feel that the government is not adequately representing him or her. Secularists wish to make their “due process” a quick run through the courts to align the government with their beliefs, while disallowing their religious neighbors any due process less dramatic than a constitutional amendment at the national level.

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11 years ago

Thank you, Justin, for once again making me put on my thinking cap and make an effort to learn something. I was ready to do battle about the usual nativity scene/city hall debate when I read the title to and placement of your editorial. I was pleasantly surprised to find the article was much deeper than that.

11 years ago

But the bigger question is:
What if I want to live in a community that doesn’t pay taxes?
Would we then deserve to be left alone and free from threats of imprisonment and forfeiture by the Borg Collective, or by our parents having birthed us in the geopolitical designation known as the United States, are we all now bound to an irrevocable social contract for the rest of our lives?

11 years ago

I used to think a place free from government intervention, taxes or anything was the place I wanted to live. When I realized I actually enjoy the things good government provides I changed course. Then I thought I’d do my best to make my own government more efficient and representative of the people. I voted. I got involved in political discussions. I helped a few campaigns. Some of the people I supported got elected. Some didn’t. Nothing changed. Time is ticking. I don’t think I’ll ever see signifigant change. So therefore, I focus on those closest to me and try to enjoy my life without being weighed down by the oppression that is my government. I have a good life. But there is a feeling of impending doom. All I can do is keep working, and make my little place in the world productive, creative and positive. I hope it catches on because I’ve learned it’s all I can actually do.
Except visit Anchor Rising now and then and staying somewhat involved. And I still vote, but nobody I vote for ever wins. Almost nobody.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

I’m not sure how it is that you’re responding as you are. My consistent, running suggestion is that we ought to have a tiered government with narrower authority as you go up. So, if you wish to collect together with enough like-minded people to pull together a municipal community with no taxes and services, then you do so. But you then have to work to convince the other communities under the umbrella of the state. You then have to work to convince the rest of the country.
The first step is to reverse the consolidation of power at the national level, such that libertarians will accept that they have to battle their closest neighbors if they don’t want (e.g.) prayer in the local public schools and social conservatives have to accept that they have to argue at the state level against (e.g.) assisted suicide. The backwards-looking problem is that nobody wants to give up ground that they think they’ve gained at the national level… even though the end result will be that powerful forces will pervert their “gains.”
The forwards-looking problem is that people see targeting higher levels of government as an easier route toward change, as we see around here with talk of consolidation. And state-down changes to local contracts.

11 years ago

Michael, please check out the Free State Project. The motto is “liberty in our lifetime” and they are making some progress in New Hampshire. Things are bad, but they are not hopeless (at least in NH, RI has long been a lost cause).

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