on May 8, 2008
Does the federal government really follow it's own laws? Can the federal government really disobey the constitution in hopes of preserving the union's security? No, claims Judge Andrew Napolitano in his latest work A Nation Of Sheep. Napolitano asserts that the citizen's of the United States have been acting like sheep for quite some time now. All in the name of security, the people of the United States have been passive as the government strips them of their rights guaranteed to them in their own constitution. The Judge doesn't just blame the current executive, but traces the abuse all the way back to the revered Abraham Lincoln.
To understand much of Napolitano's reasoning for rejecting the idea that the government can "take" away our freedoms to provide us security, he starts off his work with a chapter entitled "Where Does Freedom Come From?" This particular chapter outlines a theory which is dubbed natural law. "Natural law," writes Napolitano, "states that because all humans desire freedom from artificial restraint, and because all human beings yearn to be free, our freedoms stem from our very humanity, and ultimately from the Creator of humanity" (p.2). Judge Napolitano suggests that the idea that government can take away our freedoms gives the notion that the government gave us our freedom; however, according to natural law, our freedoms come from God, and not the government. Whether the reader is a theist or not, the Judge provides ample examples of what the founding fathers thought about the subject; even Jefferson, probably the least religious of all the founding fathers, seemed to have supported the natural law theory. The Judge urges the reader to the Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson, which is showered with references of a deity from which our freedoms stem. Even if the reader isn't a religious person, the Judge argues that it is in our very nature to be free. So, say the reader doesn't believe in the divine, he or she could certainly agree it is in our nature to be free. A firm understanding of the natural law theory is necessary for the reader to, if not agree, at least understand Judge Andrew Napolitano's angst towards the policies of our federal government.
Although Napolitano spends the vast majority of his work dedicated to criticizing the current policies of our government, he reserves a good portion briefing the reader on some of the past abuses posed on the American people. Very briefly, Napolitano attacks even the very beginning's of our country's infancy. He specifically mentions the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by the Federalists. However, Napolitano pays special attention on the abuses carried out by Abraham Lincoln. Either because the Judge is particularly upset with the way Lincoln is viewed as a hero, or because he really does believe that Lincoln was more of a dictator than a president of a republic, the Judge shows no positive bias for the president. A fact that our school's conveniently overlook, Judge Napolitano points out that " During the Civil War, [Abraham] Lincoln closed down newspapers across the country and seized telegraph lines so as to censor communications that he perceived as threats to his war effort"(p.30). Not only did Lincoln close down newspapers, but he even banished a congressman named Clement Vallandingham from Ohio! All this, according the Napolitano, for calling Lincoln a monster and a tyrant, which he was, at least in Judge Napolitano's assessment. As plain as day, the first amendment states that congress shall make no law abridging the peoples free speech. Lincoln, as far as Napolitano is concerned, showed no respect to his oath of office of President of the United States, after all, the constitution exists in the good times as well as the dire periods.
Truly, Judge Napolitano doesn't let ideology get in the way of his assault on certain president's abuses of power; he reveals to his reader the faults of the Democrats most loved president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. He slams Roosevelt for an executive order he signed called the "War Powers Act." The War Powers Act gave Roosevelt the power to monitor international communications during World War Two. This act, according to The Honorable Judge Napolitano, is also blatantly unconstitutional. Napolitano sights a few more acts carried out by Roosevelt, including expediting Japanese Americans to prison camps, all to show his audience that infidelity to the United States Constitution is not something just as of recent times, but, indeed, dates way back, in many times, to some of our most beloved leaders.
However, Napolitano's bulk of criticism is aimed at the current occupants of the Federal Government. Not only the executive branch, he also blames congress for passing unconstitutional laws. This is a breath of fresh air in today's political atmosphere where Democrats always blame Republicans and vice versa.
Never forgetting to mention the prophecies pronounced by George Orwell in his book 1984, Napolitano's only objection to Orwellian's world is the date he predicted it to happen. Living in post-September eleventh America, Napolitano implies that America has reached the epitome of suppression. In A Nation of Sheep, Judge Napolitano claims that the government dropped the ball when it declared terrorism, not al-Qaeda, it's enemy. The Judge claims that this was the prerequisite to the stripping of American's most basic civil liberties. Now, in the wake of September eleventh, America has an enemy not bound by "geography, ideology, or state authority"(p.65). The reader might object, thinking to him or herself, that terrorism is bad, and the government should do anything in it's power to eliminate it; however, Napolitano doesn't advocate a free pass to terrorism; simply, he believes the government uses this new enemy as a means of increasing it's power, and abusing the constitution. Much of his book covers the deceptively named Patriot Act. Napolitano implies that the bill was posted only fifteen minutes before the vote was taken under the pretensions that there wasn't time to read it, and now, the federal government can search your home or office without going to a judge, required by the constitution, and without you knowing until after the search has been conducted. Judge Napolitano also exposes that the government didn't stop with terrorism investigations, particular sections can be used in criminal investigations! Whether the reader agrees with him or not, the Judge makes it very clear to the reader that the vast majority of the so-called Patriot Act is not only unconstitutional, but also morally wrong.
Napolitano doesn't just stop at blaming the government for abolishing our God given rights, he actually goes into how ineffective the government can be when people become dependent on them for security. As far as airport security goes, he seems to hold particular hostility towards the government. Reporting on the TSA's lists of what can and cannot be brought onto an airplane, Napolitano points out "Gel-filled bras and fluids with medical use(including, specifically, K-Y Jelly) are exempt from the three ounce limit imposed on most fluids at the security gates. The TSA goes into bizarre detail, permitting sabers and meat cleavers, for example, in checked luggage, but prohibiting water"(p.123). It's hard to believe, but the Judge provides ample proof for his claims; however, forasmuch as Judge Napolitano bashes the government for it's ineffectiveness, a clever mind would be quick to point out that since September eleventh two-thousand one, the United States has been free of domestic attacks. To the Judges credit though, he does somewhat answer this objection with a quote from Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty, or give me death." It's hard to tell how many of his readers would actually prefer death over some of their freedoms being briefly suspended, but the Judge makes it clear that much of our founding fathers held the belief that freedom and security are not to be balanced; because, if we lose the values that this country was founded on, then we truly have nothing left to defend.
The rest of Judge Napolitano's book is showered with seemingly countless circumstances where the government has abused it's power, stripped Americans of their freedoms, and legislators breaking their oath of office. After citing a slew of facts and numbers, the Judge urges the American people to stop following their shepherds, and start acting more like wolves. Wolves, claims Judge Napolitano, can think for themselves, and don't trust that the shepherds always look out for their best interest.
In hindsight, this reviewer found that the Judge did a superb job of keeping his work readable, without dumbing it down to an elementary level. The Judge does describes himself as a pro-life libertarian; with that, he refrains from showing any obvious bias towards the right or the left. Whether it be the president, the legislators, or even the judges that refuse to do their jobs as defined in the constitution, Napolitano doesn't give anyone a free pass. It's refreshing for any American to read a book where it's author actually respects the rule of the land, the freedom this nation was founded on, and the ideas of our founding fathers. In this reviewer's mind, A Nation Of Sheep should be required reading for anyone that wishes to hit the polls in November, of course, that is to be taken only half seriously.
on March 14, 2008
This book documents how the government is taking away our freedom and destroying the Constitutional system of checks and balances in the name of making us more "secure." Napolitano exposes how the Bush administration has used the "war on terror" as a cover for rampant corruption, abuses of power, criminal behavior by government officials, and blatantly unconstitutional laws. For example, the 4th Amendment to the Constitution requires that law enforcement officials have to go to an independent judge to get a search warrant, and that judges can only issue these warrants on the basis of probable cause and a specific description of what they're looking for. However, the PATRIOT Act allows FBI agents to literally write their own search warrants; they don't have to demonstrate probable cause or describe what they're looking for. Rather, they can use them to seize vast amounts of data without regard to its actual relevance to the case.
Some people may be thinking that laws like the PATRIOT Act, torture methods like waterboarding, and other elements of the "war on terror" are necessary to protect our security. If you fall in this camp, this is the book for you. He shows that the need for security is no excuse for violating the laws and the Constitution (the President is NOT above the law, even in wartime). To make matters worse, many of the restrictions on liberty do little to increase security and are frequently used as weapons against political opponents (in fact, a Senate investigation in 1975 revealed that every President from FDR to Nixon authorized illegal wiretaps against political opponents).
A lot of people may think, "this is old news - I already know that laws like the PATRIOT Act are unconstitutional, so why should I read this book?" Well, even if you've been paying attention to the news, you probably don't realize how bad things really are. I didn't realize how bad things were myself until I read this book. Many of the abuses of power have not been widely publicized.
Regardless of where you fall on these issues, this book will absolutely make you think, and it will probably alarm you. In this context, that's a good thing; if you're not worried about the government's intrusions on your rights, you should be, and this book will show you why. This book will also show you why apathy is not an option - it is essential that people wake up to what's going on around them before it's too late.