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What if We Don't Really Govern Ourselves?
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What if our belief in self-government is a belief in a myth? What if the election of one political party over the other to control Congress changes only appearances? What if taxes stay high and regulations stay pervasive and the government stays oppressive and presidents fight wars no matter what the politicians promise and no matter who wins elections? What if the true goal of those whom we elect to Congress is not to be our agents of self-government or even to preserve our personal liberties but to remain in power by getting re-elected?

What if they use government to aid their own re-elections by bribing us with our own money — the rich with bailouts, the middle class with tax breaks and the poor with transfer payments?

What if Congress has written laws that are too complex for its own members to read and understand? What if the language of most federal laws is intentionally arcane so that ordinary voters cannot understand it? What if that language is actually written by faceless bureaucrats and not by accountable members of Congress? What if members of Congress in fact rarely read any legislation before voting on it? What if some legislation refers to secrets and secret procedures that only a few members of Congress are permitted to see and utilize?

What if when the select few members of Congress who are permitted to see those secrets do see them, those members are themselves sworn to secrecy? What if that means that our elected representatives — our supposed agents of self-government in the government — do not fully know what the government is doing and that even if they do, they can’t legally tell us?

What if our representatives in Congress don’t really represent us? What if they really represent a political party? What if each political party is controlled by a small leadership group that punishes members who defy it? What if Congress has written laws and rules that permit its leaders to punish members’ defiance? What if another way to characterize defiance of political party leadership is political courage?

What if the laws that Congress has written about the CIA have delegated congressional power to a small secret committee of members from both houses of Congress and both political parties? What if that committee can authorize secret wars in foreign lands conducted not by the military but by the CIA? What if the reason these folks authorize the CIA and not the military to conduct secret wars is the existence of federal laws that require reporting to and a vote of the entire Congress for the military to be used but require only the small secret committee to approve for the CIA to be used?


Because wars cost money and often cost lives, what if the effect of the decisions of the small secret committee is that the committee is basically a Congress within Congress? What if the Constitution says that only Congress can spend tax dollars and declare wars but Congress has let the Congress within Congress do this? What if the voters will never know what the Congress within Congress has authorized? What if the very existence of the Congress within Congress mocks, defies and betrays the concept of American self-government?

What if the data seen and discussed and the decisions made in secret by the Congress within Congress are generated by the CIA and other intelligence agencies? What if these intelligence agencies selectively reveal and selectively conceal data to manipulate the decisions of the Congress within Congress? What if those manipulations often result in bloodshed about which the American people often never learn? What if the bases for the decisions of the Congress within Congress are kept from the other members of Congress, from the media and from the voters?

What if the folks from both political parties who set up the Congress within Congress care more about wielding power than they do about preserving self-government? What if those who pull the levers of power in the intelligence community are so far removed from the voters that they don’t know and don’t care what the voters think? What if they know that the voters would react forcefully and decisively if the voters knew what the members of the Congress within Congress know but they still won’t tell us?

What if all this diversion of power from the elected Congress to the Congress within Congress and all this reliance on secret data has resulted in the most pervasive surveillance by any government of any people at any time in world history? What if the federal government’s domestic surveillance today captures and retains digital copies of every telephone call and every computer keystroke of every person in America and has done so since 2005? What if members of Congress who are not in the Congress within Congress do not know this?

What if the Congress within Congress has authorized American spies to spy without personal suspicion or judicial warrant on the military, the courts, the police and every person in America, including the remaining members of Congress, much of the remaining intelligence community itself and even the White House?

What if the selective use of the data acquired from mass surveillance can be used to manipulate anyone by those who have access to the data? What if those who have access to the data have used it to manipulate the president of the United States? What if all this constitutes a grave but largely unseen threat to our liberties, not the least of which is the right to self-government?

What if we don’t really govern ourselves? What do we do about it?

Copyright 2017 Andrew P. Napolitano. Distributed by

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump 
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  1. It is hard to argue with the reality which this accurately describes.

  2. “What if we don’t really govern ourselves? What do we do about it?”


    We get bombed out of our gourd by our drug of choice and hope that it’s all gone away by the time we emerge from our fog.

    And then, realizing that nothing has changed we react by making ourselves small and insignificant, the better to blend into the flock, school or herd, hoping that by doing so we can escape detection and avoid becoming food for some predator higher up on the food chain.

  3. What if our belief in self-government is a belief in a myth? What if the election of one political party over the other to control Congress changes only appearances?

    What if we have always been a right wing plutocracy and nobody ever told us? The goal of the ruling class has long been to keep everyone from learning the true plutocratic inclination of our government.
    The struggle to convince us we were a democratic society and not the product of a rightist and enabling leftist cabal was never easy for our masters until the powerful electronic media come in with the 20th century. Now it’s a cinch.


  4. What if…OUCH…you’re right, Judge Nap?


  5. i am surprised it has taken the learned judge this long to figure this out.

    our political system is a distinction without a difference and has been thus my entire lifetime and likely much earlier than that.

    nevertheless there is a solution but his honor won’t like it.

    our current system has been a socialist ponzi scheme since 1932 and, like chain letters eventually comes to an end when suckers can no longer be found.

    the nature of our fraud is the concept… federal government debt (bonds) are risk-less. now that the fed has trapped itself through QE since bernankes folly began there is no other way for interest rates to go but up. the fed has no where to unload the 4 trillion plus of debt it has accumulated. it must wait for maturity to get paid by the treasury which must also find new buyers for new debt as well as paying off the fed in a rising rate environment.

    good luck mnuchin!

    this reality comes to the forefront in the next 3years as the euro topples first sending perhaps money rushing into the usa as a false safe haven. the really smarter money will be moving into private NOT public assets.

    the socialist fraud that is the marxist welfare state here and in europe comes a head within 36 months.

    this when regular folks will have to decide which course to chart…….once the current insolvent fake democracy we live under topples.

  6. A pair of Ivy League political scientists, Gilens and Page, released a study in 2014 (

    They researched how decisions are made on issues in the US. What they found was that ordinary people had no impact on the decisions made on the issues they studied. Large political donors did have an impact. They thus described the current American political systems as an ‘oligarchy’ and said it was not a ‘democracy’.

    Former President Jimmy Carter has also stated that America no longer has a functioning democracy. He made this statement at about the time that the revelations about NSA mass surveilence were coming out. ( He correctly understood that mass surveilence and a free democracy do not go together. And of course we are now seeing the revelations of how the government in power used its surveilence tools to spy on and then attack a people who wanted to challenge their hold on power.

    So, yes, we no longer govern ourseleves. At least not us ordinary people. If you’ve got enough money to buy politicians, you might get a word into the discussion. But don’t try to change things too much or else the mass surveilence state might view you as a threat.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    What if our belief in self-government is a belief in a myth? What if the election of one political party over the other to control Congress changes only appearances?

    The conscious observer assesses the enormous commonness of the myth and appearances thereof, and realize by induction their utility to human wellness and affairs.

    The way non-human animals react if their food is taken away from them is the way human animals react if that kind of myth and appearances is taken away from them.
    Let’s not do it.

  8. Plonee says:

    And what if all this means that every American’s life product is underwriting endless slaughter of millions of innocent humans and is the source of endless misery for many more including some of their own neighbors?

    And what if all this means that global conflict is inevitable in a nuclear and cyber era as eventually others will emerge who will feel compelled and strong enough to confront this unaccountable rampage?

    And what if all this is being done on our watch and it is our bequeath to our children and grandchildren?

    What “if”?

  9. Just remove the “what if” everywhere in this article and it will be accurate. There is no longer any doubt about it.

  10. JoeFour says:

    …and the scales fell from my eyes…

  11. US is too big and multicultural to be a democracy

  12. I hope Trump nominates Andrew Napolitano to the supreme court. The debate alone is worth having. Although, I ‘d have to hear his opinions on other topics like single payer healthcare and Citizens United and so forth, before actually supporting him.

    Libertarians go too far sometimes.

  13. lavoisier says: • Website

    Democracy? We don’t need no stinkin democracy!

  14. lavoisier says: • Website

    At some level very true.

    Our so called republic was lost years ago.

  15. Klokman says:

    Andrew sounds like Lysander Spooner. Maybe he is catching on.
    As an engineer or mathematician would say, take it to the limit. The logical conclusion to all this is what Andy?

    I laughed to myself when Andy wrote there’s a hole in the Constitution. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of America is Swiss cheese, Andy, and it was deliberately written that way so that those mercantilists and businessmen at the time could do what they’ve been doing ever since it was ratified.

    Andy, have you never read The Anti-Federalist Papers? Thomas Paine?

    The purpose of the Constitution is to regulate
    The purpose of the Constitution is to be the supreme power of the country.

    That’s what it says within the document. The People never wrote it, agreed to it (it is a bogus contract). and do not control the Federal government. They only have the granted privilege of participating in choosing who runs the show. That’s what it says.

  16. Kevin C. says:

    What if we don’t really govern ourselves? What do we do about it?

    What can we do about it, really? Those who “govern” us have all the power, they own the institutions of society. As noted, voting changes nothing, nor does “protest” and “political activism” (where it appears to work is when the protestors are “protesting” for something our ruling elites already want to d0).

  17. anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Orwell says

    Agreed, though I’m not sure ours is necessarily an oligarchy. Read the following article about the H1B visa scams.

    …but don’t count on any meaningful change. Strictly speaking ours is a republic and not a democracy, so we “govern ourselves” (quoting Judge Napolitano) through our reps in Congress. The problem is that in this case and elsewhere, the Congress is for all intents and purposes on the Fortune 500 payroll. We citizens are paid lip service by our representatives all the while they are stuffing their wallets with bribes from fabulously wealthy corporations (and interest groups in general) working out of E Street.

    Thus,what is described as an oligarchy may be more of a plutocracy. Frankly, I’m not sure which is worse. In either case it is a sure bet that what we have now is decidedly not what The Founders had intended.

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