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Category: The American Constitution

“A tax is not an assessment of benefits. It is a means of distributing the burden of the cost of government. The only benefit to which the taxpayer is constitutionally entitled is that derived from his enjoyment of the privileges of living in an organized society, established and safeguarded by the devotion of taxes to public purposes. Any other view would preclude the levying of taxes except as they are used to compensate for the burden on those who pay them, and would involve the abandonment of the most fundamental principle of government—that it exists primarily to provide for the common good.” – Justice Garman, Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder, 204 Ill. 2d 142 (Ill. 2003) (internal cites and quotations omitted).

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“Psychologists have attempted to understand how and why individuals and groups who
usually act humanely can sometimes act otherwise in certain circumstances. A number of
psychological concepts explain why abusive behavior occurs. These concepts include:

Deindividuation. Deindividuation is a process whereby the anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion provided in a crowd allows individuals to participate in behavior marked by the temporary suspension of customary rules and inhibitions. Individuals within a group may experience reduced self-awareness which can also result in disinhibited behavior.

Groupthink. Individuals often make very uncharacteristic decisions when part of a group. Symptoms of groupthink include: (1) Illusion of invulnerability-group members believe the group is special and morally superior; therefore its decisions are sound; (2) Illusion of unanimity in which members assume all are in concurrence, and (3) Pressure is brought to bear on those who might dissent.

Dehumanization. Dehumanization is the process whereby individuals or groups are viewed as somehow less than fully human. Existing cultural and moral standards are often not applied to those who have been dehumanized.

Enemy Image. Enemy image describes the phenomenon wherein both sides participating in a conflict tend to view themselves as good and peace-loving peoples, while the enemy is seen as evil and aggressive.

Moral Exclusion. Moral exclusion is a process whereby one group views another as fundamentally different, and therefore prevailing moral rules and practices apply to one group but not the other.”

– James R. Schlesinger, et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations

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“Perhaps the most striking fact about the organized religious life of the colonials in the eighteenth century is the large number of people who were left out of it. Whether they had lost their faith before migrating or had been torn loose from church life in the business of moving, or whether they resented the authority of the dutiful ministers or the loose ways of the less dutiful, or were lost through the inability of the churches to establish viable church-community life in the open spaces and diffused settlements of America, surprisingly large numbers in the English continental colonies enjoyed little or none of the amenities and comforts of a religious community, and many seemed not to be trying very hard to get them. America has always liked to dwell upon those who came to win religious liberty or to realize some other religious ideal. But the extraordinary number who were content to live either without organized religion or with only a weak or a token relation to it suggests the majority of white colonials may have come for very mundane reasons—not to reach the glories of the other world but to relieve the hardships of this.” – Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait

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“The ideal of the simple yeoman living close to nature, applying himself with loving care to the soil, and supplying virtually all his modest needs with his own labor and that of his family was an ideal first of the educated elite who read pastoral poetry and later of agrarian ideologues and politicians who wanted to claim a moral superiority for the farmer. It was never an ideal of the yeoman farmers themselves. They might pride themselves on being able to meet the demands of self-sufficiency, but they were in haste to get out of their original lean-tos and log cabins into comfortable frame houses which they might hope to furnish with a respectable share of the world’s comforts.” – Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait

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“The English colonies of the North American mainland, the rude provinces that would in time form the nucleus of the United States, were the elements of the first post-feudal nation, the first nation in the world to be formed and to grow from its earliest days under the influence of Protestantism, nationalism, and modern capitalist enterprise. This was the transcendentally important reality about this new country.” – Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait

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“WANTED POSTER – Jesse Woodson James: five feet eleven inches tall, brown hair, regulation killer-blue eyes. In photographs appears to be considering shooting the photographer. Does not test out well. Approaches casual strangers in an intimate way and interferes massively in their private lives. Is trapped in the dead hole and neither moves nor changes. Steals horses. Inhabits a discolored landscape through which only one, treacherous path is known to pass. Has the appearance of many ballistics with a flat trajectory. This man is occupied by an army of scars, tip of middle finger left hand missing, and one large scar on chest which oft has spoken with bloody lips. Is always breaking out afresh. Cultivates a desperado aura and can most often be seen in the penny dreadfuls, spotted regularly in novels, poems, ballads, and folktales. Men claiming to be James can be differentiated from him in that they pose willingly in front of cameras, they make political speeches. These people are not the genuine article and are confused. Jess James was never confused about anything in his life, which will last exactly thirty-seven years, five months, three days, fourteen hours, and ten minutes.” – Paulette Jiles, “The James Poems”

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“When you get elected President I think the first thing they do is take you in a room and say you know you’re not gonna do shit. Your hands are tied and Congress have the whole thing locked down and we all get screwed.” – Willie Nelson (interviewed by Martin Chilton in Telegraph Music, 2012)

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“Judges must keep in mind that poverty is not a crime; it is a condition, and every day presents a struggle for the poor to survive, to cope, to get by until tomorrow. When one is poor, drifting into petty crime can become an option, despite its undeniable risks.” – Justice Michael B. Hyman, The People of the State of Illinois v. Harley Busse (Illinois Appellate Court, First District, December 17, 2016)

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“No well ordered society can leave to the individuals an absolute right to make final decisions, unassailable by the State, as to everything they will or will not do.” – Justice Hugo Lafayette Black and Justice William Orville Douglas, West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)

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“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.” – John Lewis, Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America

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“The judge, even when he is free, is still not wholly free. He is not to innovate at pleasure. He is not a knighterrant, roaming at will in pursuit of his own ideal of beauty or of goodness. He is to draw his inspiration from consecrated principles. He is not to yield to spasmodic sentiment, to vague and unregulated benevolence. He is to exercise a discretion informed by tradition, methodized by analogy, disciplined by system, and subordinated to the primordial necessity of order in the social life. Wide enough in all conscience is the field of discretion that remains.” – Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process

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“The common law is but the accumulated expressions of the various judicial tribunals in their efforts to ascertain what is right and just between individuals in respect to private disputes. The common law, however, is not static. By its nature, it adapts to changing circumstances. The common law is affected by the felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, and intuitions of public policy, and it embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries. It is generally agreed that two of the most significant features of the common law are: (1) its capacity for growth and (2) its capacity to reflect the public policy of a given era. The common law does not consist of definite rules which are absolute, fixed, and immutable like the statute law, but it is a flexible body of principles which are designed to meet, and are susceptible of adaption to, among other things, new institutions, public policies, conditions, usages and practices, and changes in mores, trade, commerce, inventions, and increasing knowledge, as the progress of society may require. So, changing conditions may give rise to new rights under the law. The common law is always a work in progress and typically develops incrementally, i.e., gradually evolving as individual disputes are decided and existing common-law rules are considered and sometimes adapted to current needs in light of changing times and circumstances.” – Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., Michigan Supreme Court, Price v. High Pointe Oil Co., 2013 (edited for clarity; internal cites and quotes omitted)

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“The white South said that it knew ‘niggers,’ and I was what the white South called a ‘nigger.’ Well, the white South had never known me—never known what I thought, what I felt. The white South said that I had a ‘place’ in life. Well. I had never felt any ‘place’; or, rather, my deepest instincts had always made me reject the ‘place’ to which the white South had assigned me. It had never occurred to me that I was in any way an inferior being. And no word that I had ever heard fall from the lips of southern white men had ever made me really doubt the worth of my own humanity.” – Richard Wright, Black Boy

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“Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.” – Richard Wright, Black Boy

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“Among the topics that southern white men did not like to discuss with Negroes were the following: American white women; the Ku Klux Klan; France, and how Negro soldiers fared while there; Frenchwomen; Jack Johnson; the entire northern part of the United States; the Civil War; Abraham Lincoln; U. S. Grant; General Sherman; Catholics; the Pope; Jews; the Republican party; slavery; social equality; Communism; Socialism; the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution; or any topic calling for positive knowledge or manly self-assertion on the part of the Negro.” – Richard Wright, Black Boy

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“As long as there’s suffering, you can only be so happy. How can a person be happy if he has misfortune? Does money make a person happy? Some wealthy billionaire who can buy 30 cars and maybe buy a sports team, is that guy happy? What then would make him happier? Does it make him happy giving his money away to foreign countries? Is there more contentment in that than giving it here to the inner cities and creating jobs? Nowhere does it say that one of the government’s responsibilities is to create jobs. That is a false premise. But if you like lies, go ahead and believe it. The government’s not going to create jobs. It doesn’t have to. People have to create jobs, and these big billionaires are the ones who can do it. We don’t see that happening. We see crime and inner cities exploding, with people who have nothing to do but meander around, turning to drink and drugs, into killers and jailbirds. They could all have work created for them by all these hotshot billionaires. For sure, that would create a lot of happiness. Now, I’m not saying they have to — I’m not talking about communism — but what do they do with their money? Do they use it in virtuous ways? If you have no idea what virtue is all about, look it up in a Greek dictionary. There’s nothing namby-pamby about it.” – Bob Dylan (interviewed by Robert Love in AARP The Magazine)

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“In nations where the dogma of popular sovereignty reigns, each individual constitutes an equal share of the sovereign and participates equally in the government of the state. Thus each individual is supposed to be as enlightened, as virtuous, and as strong as every other individual. Why, then does the individual obey society, and what are the natural limits of his obedience? He obeys society, not because he is inferior to those who rule it, or less capable of governing himself than anyone else, but because union with his fellow men seems useful to him, and because he knows that such union cannot exist without a regulatory power. In everything to do with the duties of citizens to one another, he has therefore become subject. In everything that regards himself alone, he remains master. He is free and owes an account of his actions only to God. Whence this maxim: the individual is the best as well as the only judge of his own interest, and society has the right to direct his actions only when it feels injured by his activities or when it requires his cooperation.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (trans. Arthur Goldhammer)

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“In New England provision was made from the first for the care of the poor. Strenuous efforts were made to maintain the roads, and officials were appointed to monitor their condition. Town governments kept open records of deliberations at public meetings as well as of deaths, marriages, and births of their citizens. Clerks were designated to maintain these records. Officials were assigned to administer intestate property, others to establish the boundaries of inherited land, and still others whose principal function was to preserve the public tranquility. Legislation concerned itself with a thousand details in order to anticipate and satisfy a host of social needs.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (trans. Arthur Goldhammer)

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“This letter will, to you, be as one from the dead. The writer will be in the grave before you can weigh its counsels. Your affectionate and excellent father has requested that I would address to you something which might possibly have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run, and I too, as a namesake, feel an interest in that course. Few words will be necessary, with good disposition on your part. Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered, be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss. And if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. Farewell.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith,” February 21, 1825

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“Can one generation bind another, and all others, in succession forever? I think not. The Creator has made the earth for the living, not the dead. Rights and powers can only belong to persons, not to things, not to mere matter, unendowed with will. The dead are not even things. The particles of matter which composed their bodies, make part now of the bodies of other animals, vegetables, or minerals, of a thousand forms. To what then are attached the rights and powers they held while in the form of men? A generation may bind itself as long as its majority continues in life; when that has disappeared, another majority is in place, holds all the rights and powers their predecessors once held, and may change their laws and institutions to suit themselves. Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.” Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Major John Cartwright,” June 5, 1824

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“Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding, and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties, which may make anything mean everything or nothing.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Justice William Johnson,” June 12, 1823

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“A great obstacle to good education is the inordinate passion prevalent for novels, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this poison infects the mind, it destroys its tone and revolts it against wholesome reading. Reason and fact, plain and unadorned, are rejected. Nothing can engage attention unless dressed in all the figments of fancy, and nothing so bedecked comes amiss. The result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment, and disgust towards all the real business of life.” Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Nathaniel Burwell,” March 14, 1818

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