TYRANNY BY EXCEPTION

To ensure an end to slavery and to protect all citizens, the Fourteenth Amendment provides that: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  It was understood that “equal protection of the laws” is an essential defense against slavery and tyranny.  Tyrants always demand special privileges for themselves and the aristocracies and military force which uphold them.  They are leeches on society basing their claim to rule on some special status.  If all laws are applied equally, then tyranny is much more difficult to impose because, out of self-interest, rulers will be forced to enact laws they themselves can abide by.

Rulers and the “Elite,” demanding to be exempt from laws applicable to all others, has been a common evil.  Jesus Christ condemned those of his day: “Woe unto you also, ye lawyers!  for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.  (King James New Testament—Luke 11:46).  Demanding exemption from the laws applicable to all citizens is the opposite of our founding principle that all men are created equal by their Creator and endowed with the same rights.  No leaders of free men and women can claim exemption from the law for themselves or their favored constituents.

This does not mean that laws cannot make rational distinctions.  It is appropriate to have legal standards set for who is allowed to practice medicine—we want all who claim to be doctors to have received and proven a certain degree of medical training.  It is appropriate to single out drunk drivers as a class that will be prevented from further endangering others by limiting their freedom to drive.  These distinctions under the law are not, however, exemptions from the law.  In each of these examples, everyone meeting the pre-determined criteria falls into a defined class.  Anyone reading the laws and associated regulations will know beforehand exactly what criteria will be used in determining who can administer prescription medicine and who will have their driver’s license revoked.

Exemptions are the opposite.   Favored groups are exempted from onerous and expensive regulations while all others suffer under them.    Exemptions make it impossible to know beforehand to whom the law will be applied.  By definition, exemptions from the law undercut the “rule of law” and substitute instead the “rule of men” that is so abhorrent to a free people.  Unelected bureaucrats buried in the depths of bureaucracies make decisions about whom to exempt with practically no oversight from Congress and thus completely isolated from voters and the democratic process.  It is exactly the unequal treatment under the law prohibited to states in the XIV Amendment.  The scandal of exemptions from Obamacare is well documented.  Unfortunately, exemptions, or special treatment under the law for favored groups, is a basic tactic of Congress.

We need to recognize that any law authorizing bureaucrats to grant exemptions to that law—in contrast to statutory distinctions that apply to anyone meeting spelled-out criteria—is essentially contradictory to basic Constitutional principles.  You learn quickly in business that the most dangerous word in a contract is “notwithstanding.”  It means that no matter what else has been negotiated and agreed upon—the balanced give and take of any business deal—is thrown out the window and that whatever is in the “notwithstanding” clause will overrule everything else.  That is what exemptions are—the “notwithstanding” clauses in our laws.  THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANY!

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