Saturday, January 06, 2007

Creeping in on little cat's feet

Apologies to Carl Sandburg's poem "Fog", but it came to mind in a recent discussion of "regulatory creep".

The following quotation is from "The Interest of the Few and the Rights of the Many," an essay by John F. Mercer, a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He said that many of his fellow citizens were not ready to defend their liberties or to exert "a watchful jealousy of the great and unnecessary grants of power and changes in a state of society which we know to be mild and free":

The people, long unaccustomed, in a good and guarded government, to bold and selfish designs in their rulers, look up with an unsuspicious confidence to any alteration which those entrusted with power may propose. However unconstitutional the changes, if recommended by men used to govern them, they seem to come forward under the sanction of legal authority. [This is especially so if the changes are] prepared in secrecy, the public mind taken by surprise and every engine previously set in motion, [and if] the unconceited and unconnected defense of individuals is branded with the opprobrious epithet of opposition and overwhelmed in the directed tide of popular clamor ...

-- The Annals of America, vol. 3, p. 276. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1976)

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