James Bovard: The ‘you are the government’ canard

James Bovard
The Washington Times
April 17, 2013


Constitution 2nd Amendment Guns We the People Gun ControlIn his continuing campaign to subvert the Second Amendment, President Obama recently unveiled one of the oldest tricks in the demagogue playbook. Speaking in Colorado, he declared that since America is a democracy, people had no reason to fear “the government is going to come take my guns.” Mr. Obama explained: “The government is us. These officials are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place.”

Unfortunately, many Americans are lulled by such assertions. But almost 200 years ago, Sen. John Taylor, in a book titled “Tyranny Unmasked,” warned, “Self-government is flattered to destroy self-government.” Mr. Obama’s assertions fit a long pattern of presidents invoking democracy to sanction unleashing themselves to do as they please.

President Woodrow Wilson declared in 1919: “In the last analysis … a people are responsible for the acts of their government.” Were “the people” responsible for Wilson’s promises in 1916 to keep the United States out of Europe’s war or for his 1917 declaration of war against Germany? Were they responsible for Wilson, who had campaigned as a champion of freedom, ramming a Sedition Act through Congress that empowered the feds to imprison anyone who muttered a kind word about the kaiser? Were they responsible for Wilson’s devious dealings with the Prohibition lobby that banned beer across the land?

President Franklin Roosevelt declared in 1938, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.” Were all Americans somehow to blame for FDR’s 1937 scheme to pack the Supreme Court with new appointees to rubber-stamp his dictatorial decrees? No, nor was it “ourselves” that ravaged the nation with the New Deal’s thousands of decrees that decimated Americans’ right to make contracts or use their own property.

President Clinton declared on Oct. 7, 1996, “The government is just the people, acting together just the people acting together.” It wasn’t “the people” who sent in the tanks at Waco, Texas, leaving 80 people dead in their wake. It wasn’t “the people” who sent U.S. planes to bomb Belgrade and kill scores of Serbian women and children. It wasn’t “the people” who concocted a scheme to rent out the Lincoln Bedroom for $100,000 per night in campaign contributions.

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