Perhaps on a deeper level, there is more to the IRS attempt to suppress conservative non-profits than partisan politics. The catalyst for that thought was a recent WSJ article about the Federal Trade Commission’s targeting the small, non-profit Music Teachers National Association in Cincinnati.
This was bizarre, given that the MTNA has existed since 1876 solely to advance the cause of music study and support music teachers. The 501©(3) has about 22,000 members, nearly 90% of them piano teachers, including many women who earn a modest living giving lessons in their homes. The group promotes music study and competitions and help train teachers. Not exactly U.S. Steel
To make a long story less tedious, the FTC was in a snit over a provision in the group’s code of ethics that cautions teachers against actively recruiting students from other teachers. The FTC claim, as explained by the article, is that the provision “was an attempt to raise prices for piano lessons.” Never mind that the provision has been in the code for a long time, has never been enforced, and never provoked a single complaint.
To comply with FTC investigatory demands the MTNA was forced to: remove the offending provision from its code; compile thousands of documents going back 20 years; sign a consent degree; read a statement aloud at every future MTNA meeting warning members not to poach students or talk about prices; and assent to other ridiculous demands for the next 20 years!
Never mind that the FTC lacks authority over non-profits. The small-time tyrants at FTC don’t need to understand progressive ideology to follow their leader. They just do what comes naturally.
So why wage war on piano teachers? There are at least two answers and they are not mutually exclusive. The quick answer is that power is an aphrodisiac for some federal bureaucrats and they wield it indiscriminately because they can. The other answer is that organizations have an ethos, an unwritten code of conduct set by the CEO as to what is permissible and what is not. The CEO in the White House issues executive orders of dubious constitutionality. He has repeatedly demonstrated that government trumps individual judgment and that additional government interventions will produce a better and more just society. Translation: A society in which the only inequality allowed, economic or otherwise, is that between the rulers and ruled.
Martin suggests a third possibility: the MTNA is a target of convenience about which none but other piano teachers care. It is a small organization. It lacks the resources to fight the federal overlords. It is, in other words, made to order. The FTC is establishing a precedent that will allow it to capture bigger game in the future.
Although MTNA demonstrated to the FTC that its code of ethics is voluntary and that the Association has never enforced the solicitation provision, the FTC offered MTNA the unappetizing choice of entering into a settlement or spending hundreds of thousands of membership dues dollars fighting the federal government. Moreover, the fight would have included affiliated state and local music teachers associations, which have neither the manpower nor the financial resources to take on the FTC.
Given the alternatives, MTNA and its attorneys negotiated a consent decree with the FTC under which MTNA and its affiliated associations agree to purge their code of ethics and other policies of any solicitation requirements or other trade restraints. Other provisions of the settlement require MTNA to notify members of the settlement, conduct antitrust compliance training for national and state leaders, and disassociate itself from affiliated music teacher associations that engage in anti-competitive practices. While the consent decree, which still must be approved by the FTC, imposes these time-consuming recordkeeping and training obligations on MTNA, it was the only viable alternative for MTNA to pursue.
Statists dislike all voluntary organizations and are especially hostile to families and religion. Both transmit values and traditions, and the omnipotent state does not tolerate competing views. Consider Obama’s not quite realized “cradle to the grave” education system. Once in place, crucial life decisions (educational and occupational) will no longer be made by families but according to the bidding of the administrative state. But more is at stake than foreclosed options. As Michael Novak explained:
If a republican government is preeminently self-government, it is in the family that the habits of mind and will indispensable to the conception and practice of self-government are best taught–only there can be taught. If individuals have no space protecting them from the state, they can have no “self” for self-government. The family provides such space…As the limited state may not infringe upon personal conscience, so it may not infringe upon the intellectual and more moral traditions of the family…The family, in that sphere has inalienable rights. Between the omnipotent state and the naked individual looms the first line of resistance against totalitarianism: the economically and politically independent family, protecting the space within which free and independent individuals may receive the necessary years of nurture.
Which leads this writer to another item in the news and another question. Why is Eric Holder, who is all for granting amnesty to people here illegally, so determined to prevent the Romeike family from attaining political asylum status?
For those who missed an earlier post about the Romeikes, they are Christians and the parents of six children. Their children were bullied and harassed in the German public schools because of their Christian faith. Their parents home schooled, rather than submit the children to abuse and indoctrination. But homeschooling is illegal in Germany and the government actively pursues Christian families who educate their children at home.
In 2008, German government officials forcibly removed the Romeilke children from their home. In addition, their parents were fined thousands of Euros. The family applied for and was granted U.S. asylum by an immigration judge in 2010. Eric Holder and the Department of Homeland Security have been trying to deport them ever since.
It appears that the Romeilke’s offense is openly living their faith when the administration’s goal is a compliant citizenry thinking government-approved thoughts.
Whether overt or covert the extension of government power by the Obama administration is relentless. Most recently the Treasury Department promulgated a new proposal to isolate and shut down the very organizations the IRS was hauled before Congress for victimizing. “Democrats are daily directing government against their political opponents – via Congress, the SEC, the FEC. Yet IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel wants Americans to think this latest IRS rule is just about providing ‘clarity.’ And the White House continues to insist that it was unaware of the previous targeting.”
De Tocqueville understood the importance of voluntary associations in a democratic republic and the danger of their usurpation by an expansive government.
The morals and the intelligence of a democratic people would be as much endangered as its business and manufactures if the government ever wholly usurped the place of private companies. Feelings and opinions are recruited, the heart is enlarged, and the human mind is developed only by the reciprocal influence of men upon one another…
A government can no more be competent to keep alive and to renew the circulation of opinions and feelings among a great people than to manage all the speculations of productive industry. No sooner does a government attempt to go beyond its political sphere and to enter upon this new track than it exercises, even unintentionally, an insupportable tyranny; for a government can only dictate strict rules, the opinions which it favors are rigidly enforced, and it is never easy to discriminate between its advice and its commands.
We are there. Let’s hope that we aren’t as good at predicting the future as De Tocqueville was.