Rule of Law vs. Rule of Man
At the conclusion of the announcement of his candidacy back in April, RFK Jr. had this to say (emphasis added):
My mission over the next 18 months of this campaign and throughout my presidency,” he said, “will be to end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening now – threatening now – to impose a new kind of corporate feudalism in our country; to commoditize our children, our purple mountain’s majesty; to poison our children and our people with chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs; to strip-mine our assets; to hollow out the middle class and keep us in a constant state of war.
That's a powerful statement or claim. It calls to mind a corrupt elite who somehow managed to gain control over U.S. politics and over the U.S. economy -- in order to make it so that the elites themselves grow more and more wealthy and powerful, even while the living standards of common people are driven down. It conveys a people who are being deceived and oppressed.
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This seems to be how things have always played out in history, in nations past.
But this is the opposite of how it used to be in The Land of the Free (America), as we'll see in the chart below. In America for two centuries, broad prosperity -- such as the world had never known before -- had been not only possible, but achieved.
A first question that arises regarding RFK Jr.'s statement about the cause of American decline is:
Is it true?
A single chart, one showing the share of all net worth (wealth) held by two groups over time, i.e., the Top 1% and the Middle Class, suffices to answer this question (red and blue notes added):
As RFK Jr. claimed, the Middle Class is and has been hollowed out, all while the top 1% accrued an ever-larger share of the wealth. Notice the worsening in inequality after the COVID debacle of 2020. The share of wealth held by elites is so large now, that it even eclipses the entire share held by the Middle Class.
This hollowing out of the Middle Class is true especially since 2002, a year when domestic surveillance schemes such as the Patriot Act gave the administration of U.S. government unprecedented powers to predict the thoughts and behaviors of all U.S. civilians -- i.e., to manipulate the thoughts and behaviors of all U.S. civilians.
There is little room left for the growth in wealth which comes from private innovation, when you are living in a Surveillance State.
If, for instance, you had an innovative idea to bring to market, but then someone else -- i.e., a nameless, faceless government analyst -- learned about your private idea through domestic surveillance then, after you arrive to file a patent for it, you may realize that someone had beat you to the U.S. Patent Office with that very idea.
By robbing you of your opportunity to make profit off of selling an improved product or service to people, these government analysts, acting in collusion with existing corporate interests, prevent you from raising your own living standards, along with the living standards of others.
It isn't just in patents, but every productive endeavor can be undermined by domestic surveillance schemes.
The information asymmetry, where government and corporations know so much about you and your plans, but you know so little about them and theirs, pretty much guarantees that things will get progressively worse over time -- as even our productive ideas get "strip mined" from above, by the powers that be.
As RFK Jr. said, it is "a corrupt merger of state and corporate power" and, make no mistake, it can become the death of America.
A second question to ask about RFK Jr.'s powerful claim is:
Were we warned?
Almost as if by Providence, two very big and very consequential events occurred back in 1776. One of them was the Declaration of Independence that marked the origination of America, a land of fed-up colonists who were adamant about acquiring sovereignty (self-governance) over their own lives and country.
RFK Jr.'s uncle, President JFK, captured this sentiment in a quote of his own:
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
Americans, facing progressive encroachments on their liberty, had developed that animosity against elites which is required for a revolution.
But a lesser-known, though related, event also happened in 1776: Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, a book justifying the merit of free enterprise. There are two warnings in that book which stand out, quoted below.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices ...
This first warning hints that, as any group of insiders meets together in secret, it most-often results in some form of planning or scheming about how to benefit the insiders, often at the expense of those outside the group. When coupled with the new surveillance powers that the U.S. government unconstitutionally granted itself, it is a recipe for disaster.
The second warning shows how it is that arbitrary law or regulation plays a crucial role in oppression (emphasis added):
To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers…The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.
In this quote, a group of insiders, either referred to as "the dealers" or as "an order of men" develop new laws or regulations which have, as the end result, a deceived and an oppressed public.
While the Patriot Act mentioned above is definitely a law which can be utilized to deceive and oppress the public, it is just one of many such laws. As you are reading this essay, there are new laws and regulations about "pandemic preparedness" or about combating "climate change" which can serve to further the agenda of "the dealers" (the beltway elites along with their corporate cronies).
A third question that arises in response to RFK Jr.'s pivotal statement is:
What is the solution?
Ironically, there is a solution which presented itself in literature 180 years prior to 1776, from a writer that the "limited government" philosopher, John Locke, had not only mentioned the most, but held in the highest esteem (Richard Hooker). Here is a quote which simultaneously states both the problem and the solution, with emphasis added:
At the first, when some certain kind of regimen was once appointed, it may be that nothing was then further thought upon for the manner of governing, but all permitted unto their wisdom and discretion which were to rule till, by experience, they found this for all parts very inconvenient, so as the thing which they had devised for a remedy did indeed but increase the sore which it should have cured. They saw that to live by one man's will became the cause of all men's misery. This constrained them to come unto laws wherein all men might see their duty beforehand, and know the penalties of transgressing them.
Notice how it begins with the historical experience of allowing leaders to rule or govern at their own discretion. In traditional parlance, this is called The Rule of Man. But then notice how that type of rule, where individual freedom is cast aside and replaced by the whims of a dictator, leads to attempted remedies (reforms) which just make things even worse over time.
When you don’t have Rule of Law, even attempts at government reform cause harm.
And then the crescendo is reached: "to live by one man's will became the cause of all men's misery" and it is followed by the solution: "This constrained them to come unto laws wherein all men might see their duty beforehand, and know the penalties of transgressing them."
This solution, in traditional parlance, is called The Rule of Law. It is an objective and transparent rule of law that has as its object the protection of the individual rights and freedoms of the people who are being governed, and we haven't had that type of thing in America for more than a generation now.
Today, we have lawless government. It is a "corrupt merger of state and corporate power" as RFK Jr. said, resulting in a "corporate feudalism" that is hollowing out the Middle Class and removing the opportunities for common people to make a better life for themselves and for their children.
When a public health official can personally declare that the people of America must be confined to their homes, and that some businesses which had been declared "essential" will get to remain open, while others must close, there is no better example of living under The Rule of Man.
The solution to a corrupted power structure which has, as its object, the deception and oppression of the public, is a return to the Rule of Law, where there is no opportunity for government officials to engage in "surrogate decision-making" (making the decisions for the public at large about how it is that they are to behave, or conduct themselves).
Under the Rule of Law, top officials such as the head of the Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Surgeon General, or even state magistrates, are not allowed to have the personal discretion to declare things like "emergency powers," or a "shelter-in-place" order, or a "mask mandate," or a "vaccine mandate."
No violation of individual rights and freedoms is allowed under the Rule of Law.
Under a Rule of Law, there is no individual discretion regarding policy, and every contingency is outlined beforehand, tying the hands of top bureaucrats who would have liked to have been able to use the crisis for their personal benefit. That's exactly what Richard Hooker meant 400 years ago when he said:
They saw that to live by one man's will became the cause of all men's misery. This constrained them to come unto laws wherein all men might see their duty beforehand, and know the penalties of transgressing them.
The Rule of Law is when every single person knows "beforehand" what is to be expected from them or from their government officials, and the only job of the officials is to follow the law — to do what it tells them to do — with no exceptions made for their own discretion.
To get back to the Rule of Law and the peace and prosperity that America is known for, an entire century of “government-creep” has to be removed. But those who built the government Leviathon which we live under right now are predicted to fight back against all reform. This makes life hard for those seeking to reform and restore America to founding principles.
But not restoring the Rule of Law will make our lives even harder — and we still have a long way to fall, making it even more dangerous to do nothing than it is when we fight back against the Leviathon.
[RFK Jr. candidacy announcement] — C-SPAN. https://www.c-span.org/video/?527511-1/robert-kennedy-jr-announces-2024-presidential-campaign
[unconstitutional U.S. domestic spying program] — ACLU. https://www.aclu.org/documents/fix-fisa-end-warrantless-wiretapping
[Adam Smith quotes] — Adam Smith Institute. https://www.adamsmith.org/adam-smith-quotes
[proper human governance] — Richard Hooker. Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity. Liberty Fund Network. Search for BOOK I. Ch. x. 6, 7. at this link: https://oll.libertyfund.org/title/walton-the-works-of-richard-hooker-vol-1
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Share of Total Net Worth Held by the Top 1% (99th to 100th Wealth Percentiles) [WFRBST01134], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/WFRBST01134
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Share of Total Net Worth Held by the 50th to 90th Wealth Percentiles [WFRBSN40188], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/WFRBSN40188
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