There's nothing that I detest more than the stench of lies.
--Colonel Kilgore – Apocalypse Now
The National Debt of the United States from the creation of the country in 1783 until 1986 was $2 trillion. The National Debt of the United States has increased by $2 trillion in the last 18 months from $9 trillion to $11 trillion. It has increased by $1 trillion in the last six months. The independent Congressional Budget Office, which has been overly optimistic over time, projects that the Obama budget plan will add $9.3 trillion to the National Debt by 2019. This will drive the National Debt as a percentage of GDP to levels above the peak years reached during World War II. The difference is that in 2019 the unfunded liabilities totaling $56 trillion for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will sweep over the country like a tsunami. If our government follows the path it has chosen, our country will be bankrupted.
Many Americans who have lived by the rules are angry, frustrated, and appalled at what the government is doing. They feel helpless to change the course of the country. The housing, spending, and debt bubbles will burst completely, no matter what the government does. Following the current path will lead us into the Japanese model of a 25 year downturn, if we’re lucky. When I read many of the responses to my last article about ways to reclaim your life, I was struck that We The People actually hold all the cards. The government is at our mercy. Americans can change the course of the country through passive resistance. American consumer spending makes up 70% of the U.S. economy. No matter how much liquidity the Federal Reserve creates out of thin air, we do not have to spend the money. American citizens pay $1.2 trillion in Federal Income taxes per year. If they decided not to pay these taxes, the empire would come to a grinding halt. American citizens have more control then they know.
I came across an essay by Henry David Thoreau called "Civil Disobedience (Resistance to Civil Government)", published in 1849. It argues that people should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that people have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. The definition of civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, without resorting to physical violence.
“Resistance” also served as part of Thoreau’s metaphor which compared the government to a machine, and said that when the machine was working injustice it was the duty of conscientious citizens to be “a counter friction” – that is, a resistance – “to stop the machine.”
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
Henry David Thoreau
That government is best which governs least.
Mr. Thoreau was a man of principle. He believed that citizens should follow their moral conscience above the laws of the state. He believed that slavery was immoral and that the invasion of Mexico to acquire land was not right. He refused to pay his taxes in protest and was jailed for this action. Thoreau’s argument was as follows:
How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave’s government also.
Thoreau’s essay was the inspiration for both Mohandas Gandhi’s Indian independence movement and Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement. Both men admired him for his bravery and morality.
Thoreau was a great writer, philosopher, poet, and withal a most practical man, that is, he taught nothing he was not prepared to practice in himself. He was one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced. He went to jail for the sake of his principles and suffering humanity. His essay has, therefore, been sanctified by suffering. Moreover, it is written for all time. Its incisive logic is unanswerable.
I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama these are outgrowths of Thoreau’s insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice.
--Martin Luther King
Americans have a duty to not sit idly by and enable the government to be an agent of injustice. The reckless actions taken by politicians and the Federal Reserve in the last eighteen months and their inaction regarding our $56 trillion of unfunded future liabilities are immoral, cowardly, and evil. David Galland, from Casey Research, reflects my anger in his recent column:
But it is our generation that should take the hit. It is us who should feel the pain of the collapse. We did it to ourselves by standing idly by while the government and its many friends in the banking sector got us into this mess. And don’t forget the orgy of spending and personal debt that the population engaged in, encouraged every step of the way by the government’s easy-money policies. This all happened on our watch, but instead of taking our medicine, we the people are now encouraging the government in its many efforts to re-inflate the bubble, fully aware all we are really doing is trying to shift the mess onto the backs of our children, and their children, and probably their children’s children. What a bunch of cowards we are.
The bailout of corrupt bankers by corrupt politicians with money printed and borrowed from future generations is a criminal act and must be overturned by civil disobedience on the part of Americans with a moral conscience. The government has stepped over the line and we must act before it is too late. The brilliant John Hussman describes what Geithner, Bernanke and Congress have done in the last two weeks:
Ultimately, funding the bailout of lousy assets comes at the cost of debasing our currency and selling our good assets to foreigners. Make no mistake - we are selling off our future and the future of our children to prevent the bondholders of U.S. financial corporations from taking losses. We are using public funds to protect the bondholders of some of the most mismanaged companies in the history of capitalism, instead of allowing them to take losses that should have been their own. All our policy makers have done to date has been to squander public funds to protect the full interests of corporate bondholders.
Americans formed this country by revolution. We are not a country of laws. We are a country of citizens with consciences. If government becomes so corrupt and out of control that they threaten our very existence as a country, they must be cast aside. Americans have an obligation to do what is right. Thoreau voiced the right of people with a conscience 160 years ago:
All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.
People's first obligation is to do what they believe is right and not to follow the law dictated by the majority. When a government is unjust, people should refuse to follow the law and distance themselves from the government in general. A person is not obligated to devote his life to eliminating evils from the world, but he is obligated not to participate in such evils. If we do not fight the injustice that is being inflicted on future generations by the actions of government today we are also guilty. Thoreau argued that the majority that rules through strength rather than legitimacy is worthless:
But a government in which the majority rules in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? — in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.
Fiscal Sanity Movement
It is now time for all Americans to force fiscal sanity upon our government through the use of civil disobedience. Our current fiscal path is unsustainable. The government’s solutions will extend the pain for decades in the best case or result in an abrupt collapse in the worst case. If Americans force a fiscal restructuring upon the world it will be extremely painful, but would result in a more balanced sustainable society going forward. In both cases, Americans will need to accept a reduction in their standard of living. This is the price that must be paid for thirty years of living above our means. Some passive resistance ideas regarding the fiscal sanity movement could be:
- Imagine that Americans refused to spend any money on discretionary items like electronic gadgets, furniture, and jewelry. With 70% of GDP dependent on consumer spending, this would result in the closing of thousands of unnecessary retail stores. We know that a sustainable level of spending is 62% of GDP, so let’s get there in two years rather than dragging it out over a decade.
- Imagine that Americans decided to withdraw every dime of their money from all the banks that have accepted TARP funds. There are 8,500 banks in the United States. Seventy banks have accepted TARP funds. Pull your money out of these banks and put it in your local banks or credit unions that didn’t bring down the financial system. This would ruin the Treasury’s latest $1 trillion scheme of hiding toxic assets.
- Imagine that Americans stopped using credit cards. The major purveyors of credit cards, Bank of America (BAC), Citicorp (C), American Express (AXP) and Capital One (COF) would collapse under the weight of bad debt. Credit cards are a Ponzi scheme dependent upon new credit issuance. Without charging 21% interest and collecting $25 late fees for being one day late, their businesses will implode.
- Imagine that every working American walked into work tomorrow and changed their W-4 to 20 exemptions. This would immediately remove $1.2 trillion of taxes from the grasp of politicians in Washington. You could bet that would get the attention of the political hacks in Washington.
- Imagine that no more young men and women volunteered for the military or re-enlisted. With an all volunteer military, the lack of cannon fodder would force a downscaling of the American military empire. The government doesn’t have the guts to reinstitute a draft.
- Imagine that Americans refused to buy new cars and choose to get by with the 240 million existing automobiles already in use. This would force the necessary bankruptcies of General Motors (GM) and Chrysler.
- Imagine that Americans refused to purchase any more 6,000 square foot McMansions. Maybe families of four could make do with 2,000 square foot homes. This would force down prices further and leave people with more discretionary income to save for retirement.
- Imagine that no one voted in the next national elections in 2010. A voter strike would send the ultimate message to the two corrupt parties. Ron Paul describes why the two parties are worthless. "Pretending that a true difference exists between the two major candidates is a charade of great proportion. Influential forces, the media, the government, the privileged corporations and moneyed interests see to it that both party’s candidates are acceptable, regardless of the outcome, since they will still be in charge. The two parties and their candidates have no real disagreements on foreign policy, monetary policy, privacy issues, or the welfare state. They both are willing to abuse the Rule of Law and ignore constitutional restraint on Executive Powers.”
- Imagine a one day national strike coinciding with the largest March on Washington in the history of the Republic. This would surely change the dialogue in the country. The lightweight politicians in Washington DC would cave immediately.
It is not inconceivable that these civil disobedience measures would be met with violent countermeasures by those in power. They will do anything to retain their wealth, influence and power. Americans with a conscience will be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary.
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.
--Henry David Thoreau