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Shades of Tyranny

Updated on August 24, 2014

By: Wayne Brown

Where is the line between tyranny and democracy? Made you stop and think, huh? You had to stop and think because it is something you have never considered much if you are a citizen of the USA. It is essentially something we have never really worried about for a number of reasons. Since the birth of this nation and the Revolution which was fought to establish its freedom, Americans have not had to worry about the potential for tyranny. As the old saying goes, “all good things must come to an end” and thus it is with the fear of tyranny edging in the USA federal government. Many folks do not see that because they would not recognize tyranny if they met it on the street which allows many of us to actually aid and abet the spread of tyranny in our system of government.

Let’s get back to the original question and lay down an answer. In order for that answer to make sense let us establish a basis for it by first defining “tyranny”. According to Merriam-Webster, “tyranny” is defined in a number of ways relative to the particular area being addressed including: 1. Oppressive power exerted by government. 2. A government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler. 3. The office, authority, and administration of a tyrant. 4. A rigorous condition imposed by outside agencies. 5. An oppressive, harsh, and unjust act.

All of these definitions pivot about the “imposition of an action” which is deemed undesirable by those exposed to it. On that premise, then we can answer the question stating that the line between tyranny and democracy falls on a plane at the point where the receiver of the actions can no longer do anything to change or stop the actions by the perpetrator.

Tyranny, as we have read of it in history, seems a bit more ugly and inequitable than the answer to our question might indicate. The reason for that is that tyranny, in the beginning is not necessarily perceived as being so bad and the people living under it do not have yet enough experience with the full range of it to understand that the line has just been crossed. In other words, tyranny, at least at the outset, can be measured in varying degrees but once the line is crossed and the direction set, tyranny only gets worse as it progresses.

Tyranny and democracy are not necessarily black and white perspectives divided along a very definite and defined line with one color on one side and the other color on the opposing side. The line is certainly there drawn in a backdrop of light gray shades. As one crosses the line and moves more toward democracy the gray transitions to blue, a comfortable color associated with liberty, freedom, pursuit of happiness. Crossing in the other direction one still encounters the gray for a while but then the color begins to transition slowly to yellow, then orange and finally to red indicating the deepest reaches of tyranny have been uncovered. Many societies throughout history have walked in and out of the gray in proximity to the line on the democratic side but few have crossed the line and successfully remained in the gray of the other side for very long.

In a couple of the pieces which I have written recently, some of the commentary has run along just this line. The reader does not feel the actions discussed reach the degree necessary to be called, “tyranny”. I understand that perspective but I also recognize that tyranny is a function of intent on the part of those carrying out the specific action and how well those impacted by the action recognize the fact that they can do little or nothing about it. In other words, there is that area near where the line is crossed where those experiencing the action might still believe they have the power to stop it but in reality that is a false impression because that power ended just before the line was crossed.

How does this translate to the people of the United States of America in this day and time? Can we define the line and when it is crossed within our system? The answer is “yes” if we understand and if we are looking for the signs. In theory the United States is a republic with overtones of democracy interwoven in its processes. Many things are decided by popular vote and many things are decided by those elected to carry out “the will of the people”. Certainly both of these can be indicators. When things are voted on and decided directly by the vote of the people then it becomes obvious by the vote what the “will of the people” really is in such matters. When elected officials act on behalf of their constituents who voted them into office, then the “will of the people” is not quite as clear because the desires of the people is open to interpretation of the representative thus his/her actions may be swayed by the influences of others, etc. allowing an action to result which is not reflective of “the will of the people”. Still, those in office will claim that the people’s work is being done because they are elected by the people thus what they decide is “the will of the people”.

Let us take for example the issue of illegal immigration as a consideration. Ideally, the people of any nation would desire that their borders be secure and that immigration occurs in a controlled manner which allows only those people into the country who have visas or are interested in becoming legal citizens. When elected officials fail to maintain that level of security on border perimeters to the level that allows literally millions of illegals to cross into the country, then the “will of the people” has been ignored. When those same illegals are fed, clothed, schooled, and cared for medically and all but extended the rights of citizenship without completing the requirements, then the “will of the people” may become subverted by the “will of the politician”. As this takes place, the people slowly lose their influence in the outcome of the situation and their will becomes secondary. At that point, the line has been crossed to the side of tyranny.

Look at a different example, the recent debate over a national healthcare program, the actions taken in the legal system, the outcome resulting from those actions, and the aftermath and we get another look. The Affordable Healthcare Act passes both chambers of the Congress due to Democrat Party control of both on the one part but also due, in great part, to some portion of that group lending its support and approval to the legislation on the premise that the government was mandating healthcare as a requirement and the penalties assessed as punishment for non-compliance under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution which allows Congress to regulate commerce. At the outset, the “will of the people” might be described as having access to affordable healthcare for all citizens of the country. By the time the legislation is designed and passed on the basis of the “mandate” that “will” has now been made a requirement under law with the signature of the President. Suddenly, “the will the people” for affordable healthcare has been subverted by a compulsory participation mandate with associated penalties which apply to everyone (except specified elected officials). The “will of the people” is no longer the center piece of the actions taken by the elected officials.

In this instance, the legislation passed and the action taken were objectionable on delivery and the law was challenged in the legal system…”a will of the people once again” carried out by elected officials questioning whether Congress had the power to enact such legislation into law with such mandate of compulsory participation and ensuing penalties to entice participation. The decision of the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate as an extension of Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution was an “unconstitutional act” imposed to achieve compliance with the law. At the same time, the Court allowed the healthcare law to stand which means that the law will take effect based on the original plan sans the mandate as designed. The Court went a step further to say that if the mandate was indeed used for such implementation then that mandate would have to derive its powers from the Congress’ ability to levy tax on the American people. Given that premise or better yet, ruling, one must conclude that it is the “will of the people” to be taxed to implement and sustain the actions of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ObamaCare). Plainly, both sides of the aisle in Congress agrees that additional taxes cannot be imposed on the American public at this time nor has there been a majority made up of either side of the aisle, separate, or in combination that has concluded and passed a piece of legislation to impose a tax. By following such philosophy, those elected officials in Congress then agree that the “will of the people” is to not be taxed at any greater level at this time. At this point, if we stop and look down, we are standing at the side of the line in which the “will of the people” can still be used to achieve a change or a desired outcome. The next step in the same direction changes all of that and crosses the line into the light gray shades of tyranny.

Today, the Affordable Healthcare Act is free of encumberance to proceed into implementation and sustainment. The question on which the next step is riding is related to the basis of the mandate. The court has said that Congress may issue the mandate but only under the powers of taxation. If the law proceeds as is then the question arises as to whether participation is mandatory and if penalties will be assessed. If so, then the people must understand that the law continues on the basis of “taxation” as defined by the Court. Ironically, the legislation was never considered from the standpoint of taxation therefore the votes supporting its passage are now in doubt. If all parties agree that the “will of the people” is not to be taxed then to proceed with the law using a mandate is to proceed with it as a tax. The action steps across the dividing line and enters into the territory of tyranny. If the “will of the people” is considered, then the legislation must be reconsidered by both Chambers of the Congress, debated as a tax, and then voted upon as such. Anything short of this action leaves future actions following a direction toward tyranny.

For those who do not consider this a serious step or consequence on our path as a nation into the future, the question arises as to how far into the territory of tyranny do we have to cross to get your attention? This ruling by the Court and the ensuing directions this Congress and the Obama Administration will become the foundation for other actions which abandon the “will of the people” in the future and with each one the people will lose more and more influence and power to deter or change the action as dictated by those who desire it. Issues related to individual freedoms, gun ownership, environmental factors, diet, travel, and other things right on down to the car you drive will become part of the domain of government to dictate to the individual on the premise that the action best suits the needs of the people and ignore that it violates every intent of the Constitution.

We elect a President to lead and represent, not to defy and dictate based on his/her personal opinions or desires. The box we put that President in is limited in size by the boundaries as defined by the Constitution and the Rule of Law. The President takes an oath of office to protect and defend said Constitution to the best of his/her ability from all comers both foreign and domestic. Those elected to the office of Senator or Representative are also bound by that oath as are all Justices on the bench of the Supreme Court. Each and every one of them has the primary duty to protect and defend the Constitution and to uphold the rule of law as so defined. Every other action they take pales in light of that responsibility and the dedication to that mission during their tenure. The Constitution is the shield which protects the freedom and liberty of all Americans and thus it is the singular most important element in the makeup and processes of this nation’s government. When we have elected officials who use the powers of their office to subvert the Constitution, grab power over the people, and change the laws governing the nation without due process, then the “will of the people” has been supplanted and the line toward tyranny has been crossed. If we have no one to bring us back, then it is a duty which only the people themselves can fulfill. In order to carry out that duty, the people must first recognize the threat. Those who do not know tyranny will live under it for the rest of their days.

God Bless America!

©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.

3 July 2012


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    • profile image 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      WillStarr- We're in debt over 17 trillion dollars , our economy has stagnated and government dependency has reached new heights, so what's the government doing- penalizing hard working people with stupid regulations.

      BTW the government in its great wisdom has used the EPA to put almost half of Americas house painters out of business with the new lead paint laws. So in a recession we get higher prices for homeowners needing their houses painted and more unemployed workers looking for jobs.

      I know because I'm a painter myself.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      The latest example of tyranny under the Obama administration:

    • profile image 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      Signs of tyranny appear ominous and we've begun a decent into tyranny. As you referred to crossing over the gray area, its happened!

      My belief however is that the Obama administration is a bit of an aberration and a backlash is coming in 2014 and 2016. As smart as Obama is, he's overplayed his hand to some degree.

      America's best days are still ahead, current happenings will serve as a wake up call to get our house in order!

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @Angela Blair...Tyrannical power does not overcome a nation in a matter of days, Sis...not unless they are overrun by military strength. Normally, it is insidious and easy to swallow at first with few noticing that their rights are being traded for promises of Utopia...we see those shades right now here in the USA. WB

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      How succinctly you put the problem, Wayne -- I especially fear the cuts in the Defense Budget. If we can't defend ourselves the rest of it doesn't matter anyway and no one can deny we're living in a very strange world. Great Hub. Best/Sis

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @WillStarr...And yet we still have politicians promising to put people in the "free cheese line" if the will just vote for them...a good example of Joe Biden's speech to the NAACP this past week. WB

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Imagine a family that lives well beyond its means, and has to put 40 cents of every dollars spent on credit cards with no hope of ever paying it back. Imagine too that their total debt will soon exceed their annual income.

      That's where the US is today, and yet Congress turns a blind eye to the looming disaster. It's insanity.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @WillStarr...That is really what it comes down to, Will...We can be as compassionate as we want to salve our own conscience but in the end the real question is "can we afford it as a country?" Some would say that we can by simply raising taxes but the math does not work. The math that does work calls for a significant decrease in the size of government quickly, a reduction in spending, and at very least a hold on the growth of social programs. The American taxpayer can no longer afford to buy votes for politicians eager to occupy office for the rest of their lives. There is no level at which the government can tax people today that will cover our deficit in spending and reduce our debt. Things have to get smaller so our illustrious leader decides to take the bulk of those potential cuts out of the Defense Budget so that he can continue to grow the administrative side of the government in the process. We really need to wake up from this bad dream. WB

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      We have to decide what's more, or free-stuff. If we choose one, we cannot have the other, and if we chose free-stuff, we also choose tyranny.

      Superb and desperately needed Hub, Wayne!

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @Dim Flaxenwick...I must say that in U.K. politics...the socialist are at least up front in their approach...not hiding behind some mask as they are in the current USA administration. Those who subscribe to socialism in the population are there mainly because they have compassion for others. I fully understand that concept and to a degree share their compassion. My compassion stops at the point where we, as a people, can no longer pay for it and we are long past that point in America, long past it and mortgaging our future on the basis of it to gain votes for politicians, more than anything else. I listened intently to VP Joe Biden speak to the NAACP yesterday and paint the picture of bravery that Obama represents in his quest to add a greater and greater social agenda to the bottom line of the American deficit which is already totally out of control. This is an administration which has yet to create a budget since taking office and yet had control of the both the House and Senate for two full years. This is an adminstration of dreamers who want to load the cost of those dreams on to the backs of the American taxpayer until finally that back breaks and there is no one left to pay. It is not about the wealth paying more so much as it is wringing more and more out of the middle-class until it disappears. The wealthy will survive the on-slaught of Obama; the middle-class will not. That is what the compassionate sect of America does not get...when you kill the golden goose, there's nothing left. Thanks much for your great comment and so glad you liked the read. WB

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

      I found this really compelling reading. I fear for the state of U.K. politics .. Your mention of what I would term as gradualism is happening here too. It´s often so slow, or gradual that people hardly notice what´s happening.

      A brilliant hub. Thank you.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      @Fitnezz Jim...I tend to agree...the States Rights horse ran right out the front of the barn. It is hard to believe that the States bought into such a move and hard to believe that Congress can change its own determined makeup at will. Thanks, Jim. WB

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      All...If you have commented on this hub before and notice that your comment is no longer here. You can thank the moderator here in Hubville who decided that everything about the comments was related to hate speech and unpublished the hub. I had to eliminate all of it to get it republished. In the interest of not doing all that work again, please keep your discussions on a civil plain and stay away from the name calling, labeling, etc. I can deal with it and shrug it off but it violates the rules and terms of use. We certainly need to have these discussions between ourselves but let's keep it on a civil plain and try to just exchange info. Thanks much for your cooperation and understanding. WB

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      The original balance of powers were unanticipatedly changed April of 1913, when we modified our Constitution to have Senators elected by the people, and no longer required that they be selected by their States legislatures. As result of this change, Senate representation has degraded to being representation for partisan politics. The Affordable Health Care Act never would have happened if Senators represented for their States. We know this because a majority of our States sued to overturn the Act.

      Future historians may argue that the road to tyranny began with the changes of 1913, the 16th and 17th Amendments.

      Remember in November.


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