Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Separation of Church and State Paradigm

Separation of church and state is not in the Constitution, but these words echoed by Thomas Jefferson have passed the test of time. In essence, the government should not enact any law or policy that favors one religion over another and vice versa. This lack of intervention style of governance is called laissez faire. In this instance, laissez faire for the most part is a good policy because it prevents one religion from receiving preferential treatment over other religious denominations. And if laissez faire is a good premise for government policy to follow, it is a shame that this standard is not applied to other aspects between the societal and government relationship. If this were there case there would be no need for lobbyists because there would be no government ties to special interests.

Over the two plus centuries of America’s existence there has been a major paradigm shift in how the Constitution has been interpreted. For instance, today, the first amendment, freedom of speech, also means freedom of expression. The Constitution’s “necessary clause”, the “commerce clause”, and even the “contracts clause” interpretation have all expanded over the past two hundred years. This has enabled the federal government to expand and grow at an alarming rate. Today, we have fewer freedoms because the federal government’s thirst for taxpayer money to pay for their ever increasing expansion is forcing more and more people into poverty.

All government laws and policies are for the most part unfair and inconsistently enforced. Take for example the new Obamacare reform of the healthcare industry. The government has issued 111 waivers to union groups and corporations who are represented by lobbyists. Meanwhile; the other 99% of corporation and union groups must comply with the law. This unfair law could have been avoided, if and only if, the government followed a laissez faire approach of governance and did not interfere in the healthcare industry.

Why does separation of church and state pass the test of time, but other aspects of Constitutional law and government intervention fail miserably over time? Today, the government gives tens of billions of dollars to thousands of different groups, but ignores other similar entities. For example, the government gives money to National Public Radio and to left leaning special interest groups such as ACORN, but neglects to yield the same treatment to similar entities. This is not fair, nor is it consistent. The stimulus, for instance, gave money to select companies, charities, and non-profit groups while ignoring others. The Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailed out some banks and left others to fail. It seems that companies, organizations, and groups that have lobbyist working for them in Washington DC reap the benefits and those who do not play the game go extinct. Although the quid pro quo process between lobbyists and politicians may not been seen as corrupt or illegal, but giving one company a sweet heart deal in return for campaign contributions is sleazy. All of this hypocrisy and contradictory policy can be avoided if the government practiced laissez fair and did not feel compelled to generate a massive paradigm shift in the government’s societal role.  

The bottom line is that the only way the government can avoid being unfair and inconsistent with its policies is to practice a form of laissez faire. The government has done this successfully when it comes to separation of church and state. But there has been a dramatic paradigm shift over the past two hundred years where the government has expanded and grown so much they inconsistently interfere into societal aspects such as healthcare, green companies, charities, and so on. I will follow the philosophy that the federal government should use laissez faire for everything, not just between religions, but for all domestic and foreign policy. Yes, sometimes the federal government must intervene in the event of a crisis, but there should be only a few exceptions to the rule.    

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  1. The job of the federal government isn't to do nothing, to be laissez faire. The job of the federal government is to protect and defend the unalienable rights of each and every American against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Period. No more and no less.

  2. Hi Patrick,

    If I read you correctly, you want the gov’t to stick to its defined role under the Constitution – not to be “activist” in the sense that it expands or oversteps its intended authority. If so I think you and drpete basically agree in principle and the difference is really semantic.

    You said, “Over the two plus centuries of America’s existence there has been a major paradigm shift in how the Constitution has been interpreted.”

    I think most people would agree to that but just to be difficult I have to have a slightly different take on it. If someone tells me, “No, you can’t do that,” and I “interpret” that to mean that I can go ahead and do what I want, that really doesn’t qualify as misinterpretation. It’s a deliberate defiance of the boundaries that were made clear to me. All too often we are asked to go along with the notion that blatant disregard for the Constitution is merely a difference of interpretation. It’s time for all conservatives to refuse to play that game.

  3. Yes, CW, you read the post correctly. I did not comment on Dr. Pete's comments because I thought I did another bad job of trying to make my point. I seem to have a "failure to communicate" quite often with Dr. Pete.

    Also, I understand your point, it makes perfect sense.

  4. Good analogy, PT Bohan. I believe your concept of "A form of laizzez faire" captures what the founders intended in the day to day operations of the federal government,at least when compared to its contemporary activities and special interests. (Although I appreciate the good Dr. Pete's focus on the fundamentals, the Constitution's Preamble and its enumeration of powers give the feds. a little more range than he suggests.)

    Laissez faire seems to be the result intended from James Madison's discussion of "factions" in Federalist 10. He defined faction as a group of citizens united in some interest or passion against the rights or the "permanent and aggregate interests" of the country, or in modern terms, a special interest. Madison argued that the structure of our government and the fact that we are a large republic would mitigate and localize the effect of factions. "the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national and the local and particular to the state legislatures."

    In fact, Madisona acutally uses your religious analogy in Federalist 51. He suggested that just as the multiplicity of religious sects prevents the emergence of any one of them to threaten our religious liberies, so the multiplicity of interests prevents any one of them to threaten our civil liberty libertis. Factions or special interests will check each other.

    Unfortunately, Madison underestimated the ability of modern politicians to cobble together deals to award special factors to a multitude of factions or interests. On so we are where we are today.

  5. Thanks for the insight, did not realize that I was using the same argument as Madison in Federalist 51. However, I do want to point out that I believe in our Constitution and the government's role to provide for the Defense, coin money, and those carry out those roles in Article 1 Section 8. But, I do believe special interests are ruling modern politics and it has to stop.