We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
What are those issues? One concerns the proper role of government in American life. The Constitution was primarily an effort to define, to set limits, to the power of the state. The Founders understood both the need for federalism and the dangers of statism. In their effort to “form a more perfect Union” and “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” they were everywhere at pains to circumscribe the reach of state power. Having tasted tyranny first hand, and having pondered the melancholy lessons of history, they understood the awful metabolism of servitude. President Obama was quite right when, way back in 2001, he described the Constitution as “a charter of negative liberties.” What he did not understand then — and what he clearly still cannot get his mind around — is that fact that this “negative,” “merely formal” quality of the Constitution is one of its great strengths, not a weakness. In 2001, Senator Obama complained that the Constitution only told you what the state and federal government “can’t do to you,” not what it must do for you. As I noted at the time,
For a couple thousand years, people were desperately eager to frame constraints that would apply to their governments, that would limit, for example, the government’s ability to expropriate their property, to force them to educate their children in a certain way, or subscribe to certain government-mandated beliefs.
That sort of traditional political freedom is not enough for left-wingers. Ever since Marx decried bourgeois freedom as merely “formal,” the left has set out not to preserve freedom but to remake society according to a utopian scheme.
This is exactly what Obama wants to do. The “tragedy” of the civil-rights movement, he said, is that in focusing on “negative” freedom, it tended to “lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.”
Bringing about “redistributive change” is what the Obama administration is all about.
The Founding Fathers had a narrow view of the proper role of a central government and a somewhat broader view of the role of local and state governments. Remember that at the time the states adopted the Constitution, states hanged armed robbers, flogged prisoners (US military flogged servicemembers), forbade Catholics from holding office by statute, ran almost no health care operations and very few charity operations, and generally did these we would now find appalling. No state would presume to tell someone what job to hold or what crops to grow, but they all presumed to tell people they must close their stores on Sundays.
The Founding Fathers preferred governments that, in Jefferson's words, "governed least." A government should protect the vulnerable with equal justice and public safety; it should develop transportation infrastructure and otherwise foster economic activity without stifling; it should protect its own integrity and its citizens from attack. Anything out of those roles should be considered improper until a strong case is made for necessity.
The FAA is generally a good example of government: with procedures in place, we can fly a lot more people and planes a lot more safely. Ad hoc, air traffic would likely be far more hectic and less safe. Possibly could be handled by commercial air cooperation. Coast Guard is another good example: public safety and law enforcement, tasks not likely to be handled well in private sector.