Citizens or Subjects: What Role Will Your Children Play?


I’m not going to be subtle; this is too important. We are in the midst of the most fundamental reshaping of our nation since the Civil War.

Not the sort of statement you would expect to find in a blog on a parenting site, but since the nation we are building is the one our kids will be forced to deal with, what better place for it?

Before I go any further, I want to be clear; this is not a right vs left piece. It isn’t Republicans vs Democrats, or conservative vs liberals, or even about Obama vs Romney.

It’s about us, and about who we are, who we want to be, and most importantly, who we want our children to be when they take their place as adults.

I was asked to write a post about what issues parents should pay close attention to during the election season. I thought about all the topics the upcoming debates will cover, the economy, jobs, the debt, foreign policy, domestic security, tax policy, healthcare, and the rest. Which ones were the most important for parents?  After all, they all work to shape the world our kid will have to survive in once they leave the nest. Which one is the most important?  How can you rate the economy as more important than national defense? You lose either one, the other falls almost immediately. Is healthcare more important than jobs?

How can you choose which ones are more important?

I couldn’t.

So I tried looking from a different angle.  Instead of separating the issues, I looked at them as a group, as a picture of our nation, and the world we were building for our children.

And that did the trick. Instead of multiple, interrelated, and conflicting issues, I saw one big one. And as I thought about it, and studied, and thought some more, I realized that this issue has plagued our nation from the days of its founding. It has been the direct cause of at least two wars, and has colored our history since Plymouth Rock. In fact, you could say that all of human history has been an attempt to deal with this one thorny problem.

The issue that is the most important to you as a parent, the one that will have the most effect on the lives of your children, is the same one that today drives Americans to the Tea Party or to the Occupy movement: defining “we the people” and our relationship to our government.

You would think we’ve already straightened that one out, wouldn’t you?

But let me ask you a question; do you work for the government, or does the government work for you? Ross Perot ran a campaign telling us that we were the bosses of the country; is that true anymore?  Was it ever? Is the term “public servant” anything more than a sad punchline to a bad joke? Does the President of the United States work for you, or does he tell you what you can and can’t do?

When dealing with federal, state, or local bureaucrats, do you come away with the impression that you are their boss, or simply one more annoyance in a long day? Is the experience usually pleasant and efficient, or about as enjoyable as a root canal? When dealing with a government official in any capacity, do you leave with the feeling of being served, or being harassed?

More importantly, would a private business remain in business offering the same treatment to its customers as our government offers us?

Maybe that’s not fair. Let’s look at this another way.

The US Constitution consists of seven articles, three of which are devoted to spelling out the powers given to the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial branches. I’ve read those articles very carefully, and the EPA is not mentioned once, nor is OSHA. They simply aren’t there but those two agencies promulgate page after page of regulations that affect virtually every aspect of our lives and I’m willing to bet that none of you know the name of the person in charge of either agency.

And you certainly didn’t get a chance to vote for or against them.

There is nothing in Article 1 that authorizes the Legislature to delegate their lawmaking authority to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, yet Congress has done just that, and those bureaucrats are now making law, and you, their supposed boss, have absolutely no say in the design or implementation of those regulations.

And in most cases, neither does your elected representative in Washington.

Is that representative government?

It gets worse. Not only are the vast majority of rules and regulations issued by unelected bureaucrats, the Executive branch has developed its own method of bypassing the limits provided by the Constitution. Article 2 of the Constitution gives the President the authority to make appointments with the consent of Congress to posts provided by law. Instead, Presidents now routinely appoint czars to craft policy and set regulations. These czars do not fill posts created by legislation; they are appointed at the whim of the President, with a scope defined by the President, and they advance his objectives through regulation, not legislation, depriving the people of input into the process, yet binding us to abide by the outcome. While use of the term is imprecise, wikipedia currently lists 38 czars, 33 of whom were never confirmed by the Senate. George W. Bush had a total of 33 czars, 28 of whom were never confirmed by the Senate. Ronald Reagan had one.  The problem is growing folks.

With each year, each election cycle, each Executive Order and recess appointment, each new bureaucracy willed into existence, our government evolves from one that was “of the people, by the people, for the people,” to one that is of the people, by the bureaucrat, for the powerful.

Am I overstating the case? Am I an alarmist?

Here’s a test. In all the questions asked during the debate on Wednesday night, listen for either candidate to say that the solution to any problem is not the government. Obama and Romney will both talk about new federal programs, new ways they will ‘take care’ of us, new regulations, new expansions of government. They may differ in their priorities, but their answers are the same: more government programs. Our government has now decided that they are the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and they have taken on the duty of protecting us from ourselves.

Left or right, it doesn’t matter; they say the same things. Obama says he’s going to create jobs; Romney says he’s going to create more jobs, and do it cheaper than Obama. Neither candidate believes that job creation is not a function of the federal government. They both believe that for every problem, there is a governmental solution.

I said at the beginning, this is not a partisan thing, and I meant it.

Last month, I wrote a post about some of the laws and regulations being passed around the country that demonstrate how the government at all levels is working to limit your freedom. It isn’t just the federal government that is the problem; states, cities, and even schools are getting into the act. At every level, government is taking more and more of your decisions away from you.

So how does this impact your children?  What does this mean for a parent?

Well, it’s pretty simple. Our government is now comfortable telling us that we are not capable of making decisions for ourselves. We can’t make our own decisions for our retirement, for our healthcare, for our education, for our nutrition, and now, we can’t even be trusted to decide what size soda to buy. Do you feel like you are being treated like an adult? If our government can’t trust us to decide what to drink, how seriously do you think they will respond to our input into their activities?

I’ll give you a hint; the vast majority of New Yorkers opposed the soft drink ban. Bloomberg and his appointed board (there’s that word again) passed it anyway.

Were the people of NYC fairly represented there? Were they treated like bosses, or naughty children who spoiled their dinner?

Folks, 200 years ago, we fought a war over a government that imposed its will on us without giving us a say. Now we gripe for a few days, then get distracted by the next episode of Dancing With the Stars. Worse, our children are growing up and accepting this sad state of affairs as normal.

Our children will still sport the label ‘citizen,’ but will they really be citizens? Will they be the bosses of the country, or will they answer to the whims of unelected bureaucrats making law by fiat? Will elections matter, or will they become political theater, without any real consequence. Congress has already delegated a large portion of its authority to the bureaucrats and simply abandoned much of the rest. The Executive branch has built an army of czars to fill that void, to shape policy and execute legally binding regulations, bypassing the checks and balances provide by the Constitution.

When all power is held by the unelected bureaucrats, what difference will it make who is elected to Congress?

Or the White House?

And once elections no longer matter, once our voice is safely neutralized, then we are no longer citizens.

Your children, raised in freedom, will live instead as subjects of a government they have no real control over.

Go back and look at that list of issues I started this article with. Think about how the last few administrations have addressed these issues. Assess their performance using this one single criteria: have the actions taken to address the issue acted to increase your freedom, or decrease it? Then, for just one day, from the time your alarm clock goes off to the time you go back to sleep in your bed (with the mattress tag you are not allowed under penalty of law to remove) think about how your actions are circumscribed by local, state and federal laws and regulations. Finally, ask yourself how many of those laws were made by faceless, unelected, unaccountable people.

And then think about the kind of world you want your child to grow up in.

Then consider your vote carefully, and make it count.

Read more of Rich Hailey’s writing about everything at

Follow him on Twitter and Facebook